The "Six for '06" policy agenda on which Democrats campaigned last year was supposed to consist of low-hanging fruit, plucked and put in the basket to allow Congress to move on to tougher targets. House Democrats took just 10 days to pass a minimum-wage increase, a bill to implement most of the homeland security recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, a measure allowing federal funding for stem cell research, another to cut student-loan rates, a bill allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices under Medicare, and a rollback of tax breaks for oil and gas companies to finance alternative-energy research.From a caucus standpoint, being in the minority is easier. Governing is the difficult task, something that many in the grassroots right forgot in their frustration with a "wasteful" Congress.
The Senate struck out on its own, with a broad overhaul of the rules on lobbying Congress.
Not one of those bills has been signed into law. President Bush signed 16 measures into law through April, six more than were signed by this time in the previous Congress. But beyond a huge domestic spending bill that wrapped up work left undone by Republicans last year, the list of achievements is modest: a beefed-up board to oversee congressional pages in the wake of the Mark Foley scandal, and the renaming of six post offices, including one for Gerald R. Ford in Vail, Colo., as well as two courthouses, including one for Rush Limbaugh Sr. in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
The minimum-wage bill got stalled in a fight with the Senate over tax breaks to go along with the wage increase. In frustration, Democratic leaders inserted a minimum-wage agreement into a bill to fund the Iraq war, only to see it vetoed. [...]
The House's relatively simple energy bill faces a similar fate. The Senate has in mind a much larger bill that would ease bringing alternative fuels to market, regulate oil and gas futures trading, raise vehicle and appliance efficiency standards, and reform federal royalty payments to finance new energy technologies.
The voters seem to have noticed the stall. An ABC News-Washington Post poll last month found that 73 percent of Americans believe Congress has done "not too much" or "nothing at all." A memo from the Democratic polling firm Democracy Corps warned last month that the stalemate between Congress and Bush over the war spending bill has knocked down the favorable ratings of Congress and the Democrats by three percentage points and has taken a greater toll on the public's hope for a productive Congress.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Democrats' Momentum Slows
After Republican missteps lead to their loss of Congress, Democrats seemed to think that they controlled the national agenda. But like Republicans in 1995, Pelosi et al. are finding that (contra Time) the bully pulpit is actually that: