Bruce Bartlett

A number of political analysts are saying that enough congressional seats are now in play to give Democrats a realistic chance of retaking control of the House of Representatives this fall. Interestingly, many Republicans don't necessarily think that is altogether a bad idea, while many Democrats are not so sure they really want the prize just yet.

There is deep, deep frustration in both parties at the moment. The Republican Party's conservative base is disgusted by profligate spending, failure to control the borders and a general sense that its elected representatives are treating the cesspool of Washington like a hot tub. The Democratic Party's liberal base believes its leaders are gutless and feckless, afraid or unwilling to confront the White House on Iraq, torture, wiretaps, tax giveaways to the rich and other issues.

Republicans are hoping to calm their base by getting an immigration bill passed and forcing votes on red-meat issues like prohibiting gay marriage and repealing the estate tax permanently. They also plan to bring up some high-profile judicial appointments for votes in order to remind conservatives how important it is to keep control of the confirmation process.

The point on judges is well-taken, but of course that only requires control of the Senate, and it is highly unlikely that Democrats will be able to win enough seats to gain a majority there this November. Moreover, even if Democrats get control of the House, they will almost certainly have a very, very thin margin. The leadership may well be at the mercy of the few remaining Democratic congressmen from the South who occasionally vote with Republicans.

If Democrats get control of the House, they are also going to be beset by pressures from their base to immediately launch massive investigations of every suspected wrongdoing President Bush, Vice President Cheney and every other administration official may have committed over the previous six years. Many Democrats are salivating at the thought of being able to subpoena administration officials and perhaps even bring up articles of impeachment -- payback for Bill Clinton.

Democratic leaders know that this sort of talk turns off moderates and energizes the Republican base. Consequently, John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, who would likely chair the House Judiciary Committee in a Democratic Congress, recently wrote an op-ed article in The Washington Post denying that he would push to impeach President Bush. But this only depresses the "Daily Kos" crowd and makes them wonder what the point of Democratic control of the House is. ( is a Website popular among extreme left-wing Democrats.)

Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.

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