Going forward a gridlock or compromise in Washington politics?

A.H. Jaffor Ullah

Published on February 13, 2007

The Democratic Party that was out of limelight for 12 years did it in a big way on Tuesday, November 7, 2006. Most political pundits thought the Democrats could take control of the lower house (House of Representatives) but in reality they took control of both the lower and upper house (the Senate). At the last count, the Democrats have own 51 seats in the Senate (including one independent and one Democrat running as an independent). The two independents have said that they would caucus with the Democrats. Thus the entire Congress is now under Democratic Party control. What does it really mean?

For one thing Mr. Bush will not be able to pass his favorite bills through Congress. Second, now that all the important committees in both the Senate and the House will be controlled by Democrats, they would set up which bills will go to the floor. Mr. Bush knows already that his power will be curtailed severely and as a gesture of goodwill he called upon the future speaker of the House, Ms. Nancy Pelosi, to join him in today�s breakfast.

To show a gentler and kinder side, Mr. Bush has already softened his position on Iraq. The day after the Republican Party was ousted from power both in the lower and upper house, the ignoble secretary of defense, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, tendered his resignation. Mr. Rumsfeld is on the way out. A deafening silence had descended upon vice-president�s office. We are yet to hear any comments on the failure of the Grand Ol� Party (the moniker of the Republican Party) to capture majority of seats in both the House and Senate. The same goes for Mr. Karl Rove, the architect of 2000 and 2004 victory for the Republican Party. Many political commentators have said that Mr. Rove may have a secret plan to bring voters to Cast their votes in favor of the conservative party but that fizzled out. Mr. Rove did not realize that morality was not the hot button issue in 2006. It was all Iraq, corruption in the high offices, no entitlement (social security) reform, social justice (increase the minimum wage). The issues that resonate with Republicans such as fight the terrorist, regime change in abroad, abortion, patriotism, etc., took the back seat in this election season.

Only few days ago in one of the several stump speeches a combative Mr. Bush said, �Terrorists win and America loses� if Democrats won on Tuesday. However, all the rhetoric is gone now and Mr. Bush knows very well that he has to work with a tough legislative branch and gone are the days when the president was able to pass any bill to his liking. One thing is for sure, the new Congress will do everything to bring home the American servicemen from Iraq. How quick though?

Once the new Congress convenes, there won�t be any talk about tax cut for the rich, instead, we will hear about setting the nation�s agenda; the newly elected members in both houses would talk about raising the minimum wage, funding stem cell research and authorizing the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare patients, cutting student loan interest rates, to name a few. The domestic agenda would again dominate the next Congress. In the last six years Mr. Bush was too busy shaping the world with his own ideas and consequently the foreign issue had dominated the politics in Washington D.C.

We are going to see a combative president in the next two years and perhaps Mr. Bush is already started to sharpen his pen for vetoing any bill not to his liking. It is noteworthy that the president only used his veto power once in the last six years. I strictly remember Richard Nixon used to veto for infinite time as both the upper and lower house were controlled by the Democrats. This is what was called a gridlock in governance. The same is going to happen now. The bills that will be dear to the Democrats in Congress will be vetoed by Mr. Bush and in return the Democrats will make sure that the president�s bill is not passed so easily. Mr. Bush has to comprise his bills and negotiate with Ms. Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid who is going to be the majority leader in the Senate. In the last six years Mr. Bush has all but ignored the Democrats but all that will change in a hurry. It remains to be seen how Mr. Bush would cajole the Democrats. America�s financial world, The Wall Street, loves the gridlock in Washington. In theory, Mr. Bush will not be able to rack up the budget deficiency by expanding war on global terrorism. The U.S. corporations will make more money if more dollars are pumped into the domestic economy. With this anticipation the Wall Street started rallying in October and November this year.

The day after the election Mr. Bush signaled his readiness and readiness to work with the Democratic leaders in the Congress. To this effect he said he may entertain some of the Democrats� pet ideas, such as minimum wage, and to seek compromise on his own agenda, such as renewing the No Child Left Behind education law. He is also willing to overhaul of immigration laws � blocked so far by his own party men who wanted to see a tougher bill. How strange that Mr. Bush�s immigration bill stands a better chance in a Democratic Congress. On the other hand, the Democrats� favorite alternative energy sources may also provide grounds for compromise.

However, there are some Republican strategists who think there will be some severe gridlock in the legislative branch of the government. �You'll have a bare minimum of legislation,� said Ed Rogers, who worked in the White House during 1989 through 1992 under Bush�s father. A pessimistic Mr. Rogers said, �You�ll have aggressive � bordering on hostile � oversight. The Democrats � they�re not going to be able to do much legislatively that he�s going to sign.� Another Republican consultant, Charles Black quipped, �An ugly couple of years with not a ton being accomplished.�

This scribe also thinks that the next Congress will be a lame duck one that will be dominated by vetoes by the president and partisan bickering. We may see Mr. Bush�s mean side. Even though Mr. Bush is in a conciliatory mood as he digests the bad news from this year�s mid-term election, the White House will veto any bill not to his liking. This trend may continue until January 2009 when Mr. Bush's second term expires. Until then stay tuned for a confrontational politics in America the likes of which has never seen before in recent time.


About the author: Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans , USA