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Wishful Thinking


I’ve gotten lots of feedback from my piece yesterday on the five simultaneous legislative defeats that Democrats are suffering as they leave town. The best feedback has been to watch it all unfold as I said. 

The Carpetbagger’s Steve Benen offers an explanation of why I’m wrong to think that Democrats are actually losing the battles they’re losing (really, he offers a series of “fabricated talking points,” as he’d put it). He also tries to refute a point that I did not make — that any of this will hurt them politically. In fact, I suggested that it would not (except perhaps on AMT), but he is so eager to refute it anyway that he produces statements like the following:

Yep, Bush is getting his money for the war, thanks in large part to congressional Republicans who wouldn’t allow a vote on anything but a blank check. This, too, makes the GOP look worse, not better.

So the Democrats fail at dealing with the single issue their base cares about most — and that makes Republicans look worse. Brilliant!


The Republican handling of the debate on the AMT was absurd, as was David Freddoso’s understanding of it. Dems wanted to pass an AMT fix that didn’t raise the deficit; Republicans insisted that they would only allow a vote on an AMT fix that did raise the deficit.

What Democrats demanded was an AMT patch that would raise taxes to meet someone’s projection of what the deficit would be if – unlike in past years – we did not patch the AMT. It was an obvious tax increase over previous levels that his rhetorical sleight of hand cannot hide. Senate Democrats were happy to drop it, which is why the clean AMT patch passed with 88 votes right after it was offered. Benen links to Kevin Drum, who has been consistently wrong even on basic facts about the AMT debate. He even misstated the very timeframe of that debate in an attempt to make an excuse for Democrats’ behavior, as I showed here. The Dems on the House floor were just trying to save face on this one today, it was fun to watch.

On energy:

Freddoso dismisses the energy bill as “valueless,” but it’s worth noting that the legislation raises fuel efficiency for the first time since cars had eight-track players and included valuable mandates on alternative fuels. It would have gone further, but Republicans refused to allow votes on renewable electricity generation and expanded investment into conservation and development of renewable fuels. Besides, the Dems’ bill is a hell of a lot better than the pathetic energy bill the GOP passed in 2005. This, too, makes the GOP look worse, not better.

The GOP energy bill from the last Congress at least opened new sources of energy, even if the rest of it was the same valueless corporate welfare as we see in the current bill. But the current bill is worse, because it creates no new energy and still has all the corporate welfare. It will not do anything to foster “conservation” except run useless ad campaigns promoting conservation. (The only way it could do anything meaningful is if the bill’s ill-defined “Oil Savings Program” ends up including gasoline rationing or a large increase in gas taxes, which I doubt any liberal wants to defend.)

This bill will give large research subsidies to big corporations to develop “cellulosic ethanol,” a fuel that might not even be possible (or which might be surpassed by something better by the time it is developed), and it will mandate a worthless and dangerous fuel (corn ethanol) for the sole benefit of corn farmers and still other big corporations.

The bill will produce three things: higher gasoline prices, higher electricity bills, more expensive cars. The victims: taxpayers, drivers, ratepayers. The beneficiaries: big corporations. I thought liberals opposed corporate welfare, but I guess that now they like to call it “valuable mandates on alternative fuels.”

ADDED: But the point, of course, was not that the bill is valueless, but that Pelosi overplayed her hand and lost out on two of the key issues she wanted — the taxes and the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

And on S-CHIP, Freddoso said the measure could have passed with some “good-faith negotiations.” He might not have been paying to current events this year, but the S-CHIP bill Bush vetoed (twice) was the result of “good-faith negotiations.” The only reason Congress couldn’t override the veto was because of fabricated talking points run in publications like the National Review. The result will be fewer low-income kids with access to healthcare. This, too, makes the GOP look worse, not better.

Benen must have stopped following this debate sometime in October. To bring him more or less up to speed, I recommend this Politico piece from a month ago, which shows how the Democrats were handling negotiations on SCHIP’s second go-round, after President Bush vetoed the first bill.

Now, the Dems were definitely playing hardball — bipartisanship consisted mostly of threatening Republicans in marginal districts. But in fact, they they still had a good strategy that would have worked — extend SCHIP for 11 months and force a vote right before the election — in October 2008. I am aware that SCHIP is a political bonus for the Dems, I even pointed it out. But as I also pointed out, they just flushed their advantage down the toilet by agreeing to an extension of the program through March 2009 (and that is something you read for the first time in my piece, by the way). Because they didn’t cut a legitimate compromise deal earlier, they were just negotiated into burying their election issue. This might be the worst defeat of all — “pwnd,” as the kids say.

Instead of reproducing his party’s counterfactual talking points about how it isn’t doing the lousy job it is doing as a congressional majority, the ‘Bagger should be calling for heads and trying to figure out what went wrong.


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