Sixth, expect President Bush to remind Congress that he has veto power. Republicans undoubtedly will retain enough seats in both the House and Senate to sustain all such vetoes. Or they may simply kill Democratic bills in the Senate with filibusters, just as Democrats have been killing Republicans measures for years even though Republicans today have a bigger margin than the Democrats will have next year.
And when Democrats fail to act on Republican initiatives, expect Bush to denounce the do-nothing Congress as Harry Truman did back in 1948. Moreover, Bush can create showdowns with Congress on issues where he has the stronger hand, as Bill Clinton often did, putting Democrats into no-win situations that will quickly erode their support.
Thus, we see that even if Democrats retake control of the House and maybe the Senate as well, there are many challenges that await them. The Republicans will still have a lot of leverage against Democratic initiatives. And let us not forget that everything that goes on in Congress the next two years will be against the backdrop of a presidential election in 2008. It is quite possible that a Democratic victory in Congress this year will actually forestall what otherwise would have been a White House victory in 2008.
Many political observers believe that voters basically like gridlock, with different parties controlling the White House and Congress. Thus, ironically, Democratic control of Congress for the next two years may give Republicans just the edge they need in 2008 -- especially given the president's overwhelming role in foreign policy and the importance of that issue in today's world.
Remember, too, that Democrats thought their Senate victory in 1986 marked the beginning of the end for Republicans. They quickly moved to investigate Iran-Contra and pass liberal legislation. But the hearings went nowhere and the bills were vetoed. Two years later, voters elected Reagan's vice president, George H.W. Bush, to the White House. I believe that they did so in part to put a check on the Democratic Congress, as they did so often in the postwar era. Indeed, I think that Democratic control of Congress has the potential to rejuvenate Bush's presidency, just as Republican control gave new life to Clinton's.
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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