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Restraint or overreach? You decide …


The leadership of the Democratic Congress has wasted no time outlining its legislative agenda.

Unfortunately, the MSM can't quite get its story straight: Crow about liberals' newfound clout on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue? Or pretend the Dems will actually behave with restraint and that their new majorities in both houses will actually lead to "more bipartisanship"?

Two headlines in today's papers — the first from the Associated Press, the second from the New York Times — illustrate the conundrum: "Democrats in Congress Wary of Overreaching" and "Democrats Vow to Pursue an Aggressive Agenda."

Here's the start of the AP story by Andrew Taylor:

President-elect Barack Obama is facing a Congress with bulked-up Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate to put much of his agenda into law.

Obama will inherit a Congress with Democratic House and Senate majorities comparable to those enjoyed by President Clinton when the party last controlled both Congress and the White House in 1992. While Democrats are eager to churn out the new president's legislative programs, they're also anxious to avoid the electoral wipeout that swept them from power in the 1994 congressional elections.

That's one reason top leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promise not to lurch to the left and give in to pent-up demands from party liberals.

"The country must be governed from the middle," Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Wednesday. "You have to bring people together to reach consensus on solutions that are sustainable and acceptable to the American people."

Here's the same Pelosi news conference as covered by David Herszenhorn and Carl Hulse:

Flush with victory built on incursions in the South and West, Congressional Democratic leaders promised to use their new power to join President-elect Barack Obama in pursuing an aggressive agenda that puts top priority on the economy, health care, energy and ending the Iraq war.

By reaching deep into traditionally Republican turf, the Democrats in Tuesday’s elections expanded their majorities in both the House and the Senate. They picked up at least five Senate seats, in Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia. And they picked up at least 19 House seats, with new Democrats coming from Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia.

The full extent of the new Democratic majorities remained unknown, with tight Senate races still undecided in Alaska, Minnesota and Oregon and a runoff scheduled on Dec. 2 in Georgia. At least six House races remained too close to call.

Still, the promise of strong control of Congress also left Democratic leaders grappling with challenges of balancing a wider spectrum of views within their own party while confronting a diminished House Republican conference now decidedly more conservative.

The exuberance of Tuesday night’s victories was also tempered by unease over the public’s high expectations for a party in control of both Congress and the White House amid economic turmoil, two wars overseas and a yawning budget gap.

On the day after the election, leadership battles were breaking out across Capitol Hill as lawmakers contemplated the prospects of new power and opportunity. The quick start to the skirmishing signaled that some of the more bitter fights in the next Congress could be internal battles among Democrats ….

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who spoke with Mr. Obama by phone on Wednesday morning, said that they had made plans to discuss coordinated efforts for the transition and the new Congress, but that a more ambitious agenda would unfold next year.

Our priorities have tracked the Obama campaign priorities for a very long time,” Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference where she cited the economy, health care, energy and the Iraq war as topping the agenda.

She said Democrats were talking with the Bush White House about a potential $61 billion economic stimulus that could be approved in a lame-duck session.

But Ms. Pelosi said Democrats could open the 111th Congress in January with efforts to adopt measures blocked by President Bush, including ones to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and embryonic stem cell research. She said Democrats had no choice but to chart a centrist course. “The country must be governed from the middle,” she said. But Democrats on both sides of the Capitol were just beginning to digest the new faces in their expanded caucuses.

As the Wall Street Journal emphasizes on this morning's editorial page, "While many voters may think they've voted for 'change' in Mr. Obama, they also handed power to the oldest forces in the Old Democratic Party."

Will a 46-year-old President with less than a full term in Congress be able to restrain the powerful ambitions of our permanent government on Capitol Hill?

Can Superboy stop the speeding Congressional locomotive before it smashes into the oncoming Deficit Express? Or will he just hop in the cab and shovel more (clean) coal?

Tune in in January as the exciting saga begins.

Posted by Rodger on November 6, 2008 at 11:52 AM | Permalink


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