Scoring with an End Run
Since announcing the American Jobs Act, President Obama has taken a more combative stance toward Congress. Through the first two and a half years of his first term, the President has tried to work with Congress, attempting to cajole them and negotiate with them, push where he could, back off when necessary, in his attempt to get the best deals he could for the American people.
Republican opposition, on issue after issue, has been unyielding, absolute, and inflexible. Since the Republicans took over the House, this has been especially apparent. Republicans will not allow anything to be enacted that is supported by the White House.
President Obama’s response has been to take off the gloves. No more Mister Nice Guy. The era of trying to negotiate with a brick wall is over. Rather than try to work with people whose only objective is to defeat him next year, the President is acting on his own to help America recover from the Great Recession. His strategy is working, and Republicans are playing right into his hands.
On Tuesday, the President announced a plan to make more mortgages affordable for more homeowners whose home values have fallen below what they owe. On Wednesday, he announced changes to the federal student loan program, which will make it easier for millions of American students to go to college, and to pay off their loans afterward. The President is making an end run around an uncooperative and hostile Republican-controlled Congress.
“Republican-controlled Congress”? Don’t the Democrats control the Senate?
No. The Democrats have a majority in the Senate. That is different from “control”. Republican Senators have decided they can, and should, filibuster everything, and prevent the passage — even the consideration — of any bill they choose. Not that they need to, since the Republican majority in the House will allow nothing useful to pass there, either. Republicans control Congress with an iron fist and hobnailed boots, and they’re quite proud of it. It is silly to pretend otherwise.
The latest New York Times/CBS poll puts Congressional approval at nine percent. (You read that right. Nine percent.) This is hardly surprising; America is still suffering from the aftereffects of the worst recession since the 1930s, and Congress does exactly nothing, because Mitch McConnell has vowed to deny President Obama a second term. He hopes the public will blame the President for the inaction.
Meanwhile, the Democratic members of the deficit supercommittee have proposed a plan to reduce the deficit by a stunning three trillion dollars. Republicans on the committee rejected the plan, because (you guessed it) the plan includes tax increases for the wealthiest Americans. As far as the willingness of the Democrats to compromise, the plan also includes hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare, something that Republicans have been pushing for. But intransigent Republicans refuse to compromise on any of their demands. They want their whole agenda, and nothing but.
These Republican games will not improve the public’s view of Congress, particularly if the committee remains deadlocked, and the scheduled massive automatic cuts kick in, to both domestic and military spending. Remember, the debt ceiling agreement that scheduled those cuts and created the supercommittee was rushed into law in a matter of days. Congress can as quickly rush through another bill nullifying those cuts. Here’s a discussion question — Is that what they will do? Or will Republicans play their hostage-taking card again, and insist on these economy-killing cuts unless their supercommittee demands are met in full?
Whichever course Congress takes on a deadlock — caving to Republican hostage demands, or accepting draconian cuts, or repealing the absurd agreement the Republicans forced in their ginned-up debt ceiling crisis — none of these paths will help improve the image of Congress.
So President Obama has decided to make Congress the issue, to run for reëlection against the destructively insane Republican-controlled legislature, and to do what he can to improve the economy by executive order — as did both Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
This may be working, both as a way to help America and a a counter to the insanity on the right. Even as the Congressional approval rating has fallen to a single digit, President Obama’s approval has edged up. In the last Gallup tracking poll, he has improved from his October 6 low of 53 percent disapprove / 39 percent approve, to the current 50 percent disapprove, 43 percent approve — clearly not great, but a seven-point improvement in the spread, outside the margin of error, and definitely going in the right direction.
Over the next days and weeks, possibly even months, expect to see the President continuing to use executive orders to improve the lives of everyday Americans, the economy of America, and his own chances for reëlection. You can also expect to see Republicans helping him, by continuing to oppose any action that will be good for the economy or good for the nation.
- Obama’s Success is Republican’s Failure (fidlerten.com)
- Congress’ New Approval Rating Low: 9% (newser.com)
- US Jobs Plan: Senate Blocks Key Proposal (stevebeckow.com)
- AP sources: Supercommittee Dems outline offer (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Paul Ryan to Slam President Obama for ‘Politics of Division’ (abcnews.go.com)
About dcpetterson (198 posts)
D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He is the author of A Melancholy Humour, Rune Song and Still Life. He lives with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a lizard, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar and piano, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts—for fun. Follow on Twitter @dcpetterson