Bush Floating Another Shady "Deal", This Time on the Minimum Wage

The storyline for the first session of the 110th Congress is already beginning to emerge: A contrite George W. Bush lays out a "compromise" -- on Social Security, immigration, etc. -- and the spirit of bipartisanship should compel the Democrats to accept it, if not outright at least as a jumping off point. Continuing in this vein, the President is now laying out a "deal" on the minimum wage, as Jennifer Loven reports for the AP.

President Bush endorsed one of the Democrats' top priorities for the new Congress, a $2.10-an-hour minimum wage increase -- and on a faster timetable than they have proposed.

But his support comes with a catch.

Bush said at a Wednesday news conference that any pay hike should be accompanied by tax and regulatory relief for small businesses, potentially a tough sell for Democrats, who are about to reassume control of the House and Senate.

I don't mean to sound glib or cynical (or repetitious, for that matter), but it's imperative that the Democrats remain impervious to entreaties by the Bush White House -- at least when they're not good faith deals. This is not to say that Democratic leaders in Congress should not follow through with their pledge to open up the process in the Capitol and allow the minority to play a role in crafting policy. Yet at the same time, if the Democrats have the votes to pass a necessary and, frankly, highly popular piece of legislation like increasing the minimum wage, then they should do so with or without Republican support. If this means that the bill will not be enacted into law in the first pass because the President is so foolish and bull-headed that he would veto it, so be it. While the country needs an increase in the minimum wage -- and I do not mean to downplay this need at all -- at the same time we cannot afford to indulge the President's desire to appease his highly partisan and ideological base for politics' sake.

It could be that a miminum wage increase, on it's own, does not have the votes to get through the Senate today. I haven't whipped the bill or canvassed the chamber, so I truly don't know. But if it's the case that 41 Senate Republicans are willing to filibuster a miminum wage increase, a move that commands the support of between three-quarters and seven-eighths of Americans (according to surveys detailed at PollingReport.com), then they're going to be in for a world of trouble come 2008 -- particularly those like Susan Collins, Gordon Smith, Norm Coleman, Wayne Allard, and John Sununu, who will (or might be) running for reelection in states trending more and more blue.

My hunch is that there are enough votes to pass a minimum wage increase, and other popular planks in the Democratic platform, through both the House and the Senate -- though not enough, necessarily, to override a Bush veto. In this case, the Democrats should chart their own course by passing their own stand-alone bills, thus forcing President Bush (and consequently the entire Republican Party) to look bad in the eyes of voters or alternatively to back down. Either way, the Democrats win by sticking together and sticking to their guns rather than caving into the false bipartisanship favored by some elites.

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Will Centrist Dems Defect Giving Bush a Congressional Majority?

Back during the first two years of the Reagan administration when the President enjoyed rather strong approval numbers, a significant core of Democrats in Congress -- the old conservative Southern bulls, mainly -- joined with Republicans in the House to effectively give the GOP (or at least conservatives) control over the trifect in Washington. With George W. Bush having lost his congressional majorities last month, many pundits are talking about the possibility that this President will be able to replicate the successes of his predecessor in crafting a governing coalition in Congress even without a Republican majority in either chamber. To this end, the President has made at least some efforts to reach out to the New Democrats and Blue Dogs within the House Democratic caucus to see if he cannot garner the requisite support to push his agenda. Yet as Edward Epstein reports today for the San Francisco Chronicle, Bush may be hitting some road blocks.

But the president's effort is running up against a major obstacle. The Democrats he has targeted for cooperation are the same lawmakers who are most critical of the huge budget deficits and increased national debt that have been amassed during Bush's six years in the presidency. They also want major changes in Bush's Iraq policy and have pledged their support for Democratic Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi's "six for '06'' platform of major legislative items that she will push in the early days of the new Congress.

Bush met with leaders of the 44-member Blue Dog Coalition and the 62-member New Democrat Coalition at the White House last Friday, at his invitation, and all pledged to try to cooperate in the new Congress. But beneath the surface, the tension and the Democrats' pique at being ignored by the Bush White House until now were obvious.

Make no mistake, the centrists among House Democrats today are a far cry from the true conservatives that once ruled the roost in the party. True, a number of these self-professed moderates have been all-too-willing to defect on key legislative items, from the Iraq War to Bankruptcy Reform. But in other areas they have largely stuck with their caucus, most notably on the President's plan to partially privatize Social Security. And they have good reason to. As Alan K. Ota notes in CQ Weekly (no link available), President Bush and his political apparatus have a history of going after their one-time allies within the Democratic Party.

During their time in the majority, the Republicans wooed the Blue Dogs mainly by trying to persuade them to switch parties -- and several did, including Nathan Deal of Georgia, Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, and Texans Greg Laughlin and Ralph M. Hall. When the target list for such switches was exhausted, the GOP worked to defeat some conservative Democrats, most famously Blue Dog founder Charles W. Stenholm, who was a victim of the Texas redistricting that Tom DeLay engineered in 2003. [emphasis added]

Others who faced the wrath of the White House even after welcoming its entreaties include Mary Landrieu and a number of other Democrats who supported the President's tax proposals and general legislative agenda during the 107th Congress.

Given George W. Bush's record of stabbing Democrats in the back and his woefully low approval rating, there's little reason to for any Democrat to sell out his party over the next two years. Yes, newly-elected House Dems from tough districts, like Brad Ellsworth from Indiana and Nick Lampson from Texas, are going to have to think long and hard about balancing their views with the political realities of their districts. But any Democrat that falls prey to the same old trick from the White House and takes a bite out of the forbidden fruit of false bipartisanship deserves to be exiled from the party -- not only for disloyalty but also for a complete and utter misunderstanding of the political system and climate.

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Snake Oil and Unity08

Yesterday in Breaking Blue I posted a couple of video clips of Law & Order's Sam Waterston, one of him extolling the virtues of Unity08, an organization intent on backing a bipartisan presidential ticket in the 2008 election, the other of him pretending to sell robot insurance to the elderly during a fake Saturday Night Live commercial. In case the comparison were not clear enough -- and apparently it wasn't, because I have been asked by the organization to "share what [my] point is" -- please bear with me for a few moments as I meander through my editorial reasoning.

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Beware the Lure of Bipartisanship and Centrism

Bipartisanship and centrism both have the ring of “reasonableness” to them, as though such approaches represent the middle ground that emerges from a carefully considered analysis of the pluses and minuses of policy prescriptions deemed “too extreme” (in either direction). But it isn’t difficult to frame a proposal as “reasonable” and then argue that anyone opposed to it is a dangerous extremist (e.g., “you have no civil rights if you’re dead”). Psychologically, I’ve found that appeals tapping into any of five core concerns—about vulnerability, injustice, distrust, superiority, and helplessness—can be especially persuasive in this regard. Many conservatives have used such appeals to pursue a very narrow—but often “reasonable”-sounding—agenda that benefits the few while leaving most of us worse off (I should add that most appeals of this sort are not intrinsically bad; that is, they can indeed be used instead to promote the greater good). Below is my list of the "top ten" right-wing appeals that progressives must be prepared to counter despite the renewed calls for greater centrism and bipartisanship. I provide details and specific examples in an online video entitled "Dangerous Ideas: How Conservatives Exploit Our Five Core Concerns" (http://www.eidelsonconsulting.com/blog/2006/09/how_conservatives_exploit_our.html)

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the Texas model

This is just too damn classic to let pass as a Texan.

"Bush wants to go back to the Texas model."said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.

Yeah, I bet he does.

Let's ask Texas Democrats how that model worked out for them. Specifically, let's ask former House Speaker Pete Laney. Here's some background on that summarized well in a Begala piece below the fold:

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Diaries

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