It was fairly common chatter from congressional Democrats in Washington during the autumn months of the presidential campaign that while Barack Obama was almost certain to win, in 2009 policy would be driven from the House speaker's office. While I didn't doubt that the congressional Democrats would try to lead Obama around by the nose, I rather doubted that Obama would cooperate. When a fellow gets himself elected president, he is inclined to want to try his hand at some real governing.
And while I predicted in a postelection November column -- against conventional wisdom -- that Obama might well have a fairly short honeymoon, I confess I am surprised at how soon, how vigorously and how publicly the congressional Democrats are flexing their muscles.
In the past two weeks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Jay Rockefeller and John Kerry and Rep. Barney Frank, among others, have fired significant shots across President-elect Obama's bow. Moreover, as well reported, Rahm Emanuel and Vice President-elect Joe Biden were informed a few weeks ago that they would not be permitted to attend the weekly Senate and House Democratic Caucus meetings -- contrary to the custom with Republicans, who invited Vice President Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and a few other senior aides to their caucus meetings.
Why, after waiting for years (arguably decades) for such complete political power, are the congressional Democrats so cranky and turf-conscious so early?
On the one hand, it would seem that congressional Democratic resistance is increased the more Obama asks for big change quickly. He may well not understand how hard it is to move big, detailed legislation through the congressional process. Obama's expectation that Congress could authorize and appropriate almost $1 trillion in only three or four weeks was never realistic. It is hard, even in Washington, to get a majority to quickly agree to spend the same trillion dollars.
His speech Thursday clearly was seen as a shot across the bow of the congressional Democrats to get on with his stimulus package quickly. While I have noted some Republican complaints about Obama's partisan slap at Republicans' bad policies these past eight years, it is the Democrats who seem to have their noses out of joint from the speech more than do the Republicans.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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