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Tuesday, January 19, 2010


With Scott Brown defeating Martha Coakley in Massachusetts, the Democratic Senate majority now stands at 59-41. In most legislative bodies, this election wouldn't matter at all since large majorities tend to get their way.

Republican exploitation of Senate rules, however, has made it virtually impossible to bring legislation to a vote because cloture requires 60 votes. Republicans won't agree to end debate to allow substantive votes.

At this point, I guess we'll find out if Barack Obama can deliver what he promised. Remember this?
We're up against decades of bitter partisanship that cause politicians to demonize their opponents instead of coming together to make college affordable or energy cleaner. It's the kind of partisanship where you're not even allowed to say that a Republican had an idea...
Of course, a lot of progressives would add that "It's the kind of partisanship where you're not even allowed to say that a Democrat had an idea..."

No President has all that much power in domestic politics -- aside from setting the agenda and employing the "bully pulpit." It seems apparent to me that Obama has to go on the offensive using one of his most effective weapons -- his own ability to frame issues in accordance with a populist understanding of preferences. In short, he should work to shape the agenda and pound the bully pulpit.

Many of the people telling pollsters they are opposed to the health care reform legislation are against it because they don't think it goes far enough (and it doesn't do enough for them). Obama has to convince a clear majority that it is a good idea. He has to fight for his ideas. Some key Democratic and Republican Senators have to feel that their own constituents want real change.

Most voters may have good health care coverage today, but millions are vulnerable in this economy. People understand that, at some level, but they need to know that the health care bill is for them -- not just the 30 or 40 million who are uninsured.

That aside, I suppose it's also possible that the House could just vote for the Senate health reform bill. Whatever the case, the country needs health care reform and then both branches of government should move on to topics that are clearly popular (and meaningful): limiting Wall Street's power, promoting jobs (perhaps via green energy, even if de-linked from the climate bill), etc.

A lot of people have been talking about deficit reduction, which most economists will report is a bad idea during a deep recession. Someone in authority needs to own that argument. Once the economy grows, tax revenues will increase and deficits will decline. Keynes 101.

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