Authored by Jon Mercer in Politics
Published on 12-18-2008
President-elect Barack Obama received a brief example of what he can expect from congress this week after legislators failed to pass a bailout package for the “big three” U.S. automakers. Even though there is a larger Democratic majority in next years Congress, it doesn’t guarantee that Obama’s ambitious agenda on economic reform and other issues will ever see the light of day.
This familiar pattern has been seen throughout the past decade; Congress has fought tooth and nail over the nations toughest problems, and there has not been a real solution to any major issue passed by the Congress in years. Healthcare, dependence on foreign oil, and the worst economic crisis in more than a half century have failed to unite the House and Senate. Meanwhile the country’s problems have grown out of control.
Lawmakers have bickered over crucial decisions during the past several years; and even though they did finally pass legislation in response to the nation’s economic woes, they waited until the problem could no longer be ignored. In the case of the auto bailout, no legislation was passed at all, even after dire warnings by many of the country’s top economists.
Some analysts suggest that President Bush is to blame for not exercising stronger leadership on the economy. Even so, Congressional efforts to shore up the economy have also been less than monumental.
Analysts are hopeful the Federal Government will be more proactive when President-elect Obama takes office with a larger Democratic majority in the House and Senate, though there are certainly no guarantees that the house or senate will put aside partisan bickering long enough to act for the good of the nation.
The nation’s economic woes are surely the most confounding problem facing our next Congress. Their response will have to be bipartisan if change is to come. The reflexive partisanship and parochialism that are rampant in the current Congress will make it hard to act decisively on our most fundamental issues. Obama is about to inherit an economic legacy that will require consistent effort and support from the congress. Whether he will get it or not remains to be seen.
With only a narrow Democratic majority in the Senate, it is possible that the Republicans could block President-elect Obama’s initiatives with filibusters. Because most lawmakers (of both parties) are driven by electoral survival as their first order of business, they tend to add local projects and “pork” on to any national bill.
Some political analysis’s fear this is exactly what will happen to Obama’s economic stimulus package when he takes office early next year. The result would be more of the same political grid-lock we’ve seen in years past, and a potentially worse economic situation.