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January 13, 2007

Getting Things Done

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

After the recent "Let Medicare be Medicare" vote, passing truly progressive legislation looks like it will be much harder than anyone thought, aside from the minimum wage increase (which will still require a bunch of revenue cuts to get past a possible Senate filibuster and Presidential veto). At the moment, turning a bill into law requires either 290 Congressmen and 67 Senators, or 219 Congressmen, 60 Senators, and George Bush's signature. This means the veto players in the Senate cluster around Pete Domenici (R-NM), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), George Voinovich (R-OH), and Ted Stevens (R-AK)—not exactly a bunch of dirty hippies—plus George W. Bush. Or, the legislative branch can ignore Bush, in which case you have to work with down-the-line partisan Congressmen like Chip Pickering (R-MS) and Jean Schmidt (R-OH), and senators like Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). When you have to go that deep into the opposition party to form your coalition, it gets very hard to get anything done.

This means that only the most popular and high-profile pieces of progressive policy have a chance of being enacted over the next two years. So, now might be a good time for everyone to just temper their expectations on what can be accomplished on the domestic front.

January 13, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Of course, also start thinking about recruiting and supporting actual progressive primary candidates in opposition to those Congresspersons who oppose the progressive agenda. Better unrepresented than misrepresented.

As with Lieberman, so with many more. Many many more.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jan 13, 2007 4:56:04 PM

The point is not to get anything done in the next two years. The point is to force the reactionaries and fence-sitters to vote. Fuck the idea of bribing the millionaires to vote for a minimum wage increase. Make them vote against it. Make them vote against stem-cell research, corporate disclosure, health insurance, roll-back of the bankruptcy bill, card-check for union elections, energy regulation, every damned thing that we can think of. Make them accumulate a record that progressives can run against.

Posted by: JR | Jan 13, 2007 5:04:13 PM

I think the Republican record on most points is clear enough. It's not so bad to actually do something, if possible. The poor would probably prefer that minimum wage hike now, for example.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jan 13, 2007 5:10:47 PM

The good news is, we can keep pressing forward with these issues. Then, when the next election rolls around, we can hopefully knock off those who didn't support the agenda. This process can continue until we accomplish what we set out to accomplish, even if it unfortunately takes a few cycles.

Posted by: Brian | Jan 13, 2007 6:08:28 PM

bob mcmanus: Or, you could start by knocking off Republicans who oppose the agenda. As with Mike DeWine, so with many more.

Running primaries against Democrats who don't support the One "True" Progressive Agenda seems pretty short-sighted. By way of example, take John Conyers' single-payer health care bill, H.R. 676. It got 78 cosponsors. Do you run a challenge against anyone who didn't sign on? And if you look at the 78 who did sign on, you'll see Al Wynn's name there. Wynn voted for the bankruptcy bill, so he has to go. Tom Lantos and Robert Wexler are cosponsors of single-payer, but both of them are pretty close to AIPAC, so I guess they have to be purged from the ranks too. John Lewis is a cosponsor, but he supported Lieberman over Lamont in the CT primary, so he's not a "real" progressive either, I guess. Dennis Kucinich? Tried to divert his voters away from making Dean their second choice in Iowa, so according to Dean supporters, Kucinich is subverting progressive politics. You could go on down the list. Running primaries against Democrats who disagree with you on any given issue or race is not a practical solution, because you'd end up doing it to virtually everyone in the caucus over something or other. It's an area where you need to pick your fights judiciously. Henry Cuellar is a good example.

Brian is absolutely right. Another way of looking at progressive issues that don't get immediate support from everyone in the caucus is to keep plugging away at them, pushing them into the mainstream so that people who don't sign right away will sign on later. Take strengthening the right of labor to organize. In the 105th Congress, Paul Wellstone introduced S. 2389, beefing up union organizing rights. He had no cosponsors and the bill went nowhere. In the 106th Congress Wellstone introduced S. 654, the same bill. It had one cosponsor, Ted Kennedy. Again, it went nowhere. In the 107th Congress, Wellstone introduced S. 1102, an even stronger version of his first two labor bills. No cosponsors, and it went nowhere. Wellstone dies. Then, in the 108th Congress, Ted Kennedy introduces the Employee Free Choice Act, S. 1925, strengthening labor's right to organize. It gets 37 cosponsors, a companion House bill, and mainstream presidential candidates begin making it part of their issues list. John Edwards works it into his main stump speech. In the 109th Congress, Kennedy introduces S. 842, the same bill, and gets 44 cosponsors, including every Democratic Senator who's running for president in '08, and companion legislation in the House. John Edwards is still talking about it. I'm not sure if legislation has been introduced for the 110th Congress yet, but the AFL-CIO has already made a vote on this one of their top legislative priorities for this session.

The point is, building support for these things takes time. You can't just demand that everyone agree with your issues right away or else. You have to keep working at it.

By the way, Wellstone voted for the PATRIOT Act in 2001. Should he have been primaried too?

Posted by: Chris | Jan 13, 2007 9:37:34 PM

"The point is, building support for these things takes time. You can't just demand that everyone agree with your issues right away or else. You have to keep working at it."

So only Lieberman, and only the war. That's what I figured. Keep the money rolling in, huh.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jan 14, 2007 12:45:12 AM

Chris, are you saying that no Democratic members of Congress should ever face primary challenges, regardless of their votes? If the goal is a more progressive government, rather than just having more Congress members with "D" next to their names, we absolutely need to work against Republicans but also, where possible, replace Democrats who are impeding progressive legislation.

Posted by: KCinDC | Jan 14, 2007 12:26:29 PM

The Dems still need to pass these bills, let Bush veto them, and use this against the Republicans in 2008. Most of these measures are very popular; the Dems need to be constantly reminding the public that Bush and the Republicans are repeatedly voting against the public interest.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen, PhD, ARNP | Jan 14, 2007 2:20:31 PM

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Posted by: judy | Sep 26, 2007 5:12:01 AM

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