The Other Political Battle

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) is one of the 11 Democrats in the House to vote with every Republican against H.R. 1, the Multi-Generational Theft “Stimulus” American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Cooper and about 50+ other Blue Dog Democrats signed a letter critical of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) methods of ramming this bill through. He went so far as to admit on the radio Sunday:

…the White House quietly encouraged him to buck House leadership on the stimulus.

Cooper then goes on with his tirade against the House Democratic leadership. Then, Glenn Thrush (the author of the post in the link) reported:

Cooper, an early supporter of Obama’s, referred to the House leadership repeatedly as “old bulls” and the president as “Barack,” said House leaders had “pinned” Obama down by jamming pork into the bill, and expressed hope the Senate would radically revise the package.

This battle between the White House and Congress had to be expected, despite the fact that the President and the majority of members in both Houses of Congress are of the same political party. Barack Obama may have been a long-time legislator (10 years) in the Illinois state Senate, but that is nothing compared to how cutthroat it seems to be in Congress, where he didn’t even complete one term in the Senate. Now, he is one of “them”, a member, the leader, of the Executive Branch. I had guessed late last year that Obama might have a major political battle on his hand with Pelosi and/or Reid; sure enough, it appears to be on, at least with the leadership in the House. Jimmy Carter had this problem, and it cost Democrats the White House and the Senate in 1980. Bill Clinton also had conflicts with his Democratic-majority Congress in 1993 and 1994, especially since he couldn’t get Hillary-care passed, the signature piece of legislation Clinton wanted; after the 1994 mid-terms that saw Republicans take control of both Houses, Hillary-care was already dead and buried.

It should be fascinating to see how much influence Obama wields over Democratic Congressional leaders in order to get them to do what he wants, and not let them get away with larding up bills as is the usual practice (just as they are doing with the “stimulus” bill). As the President, he is the party leader for the Democrats; however, Obama is a Washington neophyte, and the leaders of the Democratic majorities in Congress since LBJ have always put themselves first when they think they can get away with it (LBJ wasn’t a neophyte, but his party turned on him late in his Presidency), even if it ultimately hurts the party’s standing in the ballot box (which it has; Nixon won the White House in 1968, Reagan won the White House and Republicans gained a majority in the Senate as I mentioned above, and Republicans had majorities in Congress for the last six years of Clinton’s Presidency). We shall see.