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January 3, 2007
A Challenge To The New Congress

On the eve of the transition in Congress, George Bush has written a rare opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal. In it he challenges the Democrats to working in a bipartisan manner on national security and fiscal responsibility, but the Democrats may have their own ideas on both subjects:

In the days ahead, I will be addressing our nation about a new strategy to help the Iraqi people gain control of the security situation and hasten the day when the Iraqi government gains full control over its affairs. Ultimately, Iraqis must resolve the most pressing issues facing them. We can't do it for them.

But we can help Iraq defeat the extremists inside and outside of Iraq--and we can help provide the necessary breathing space for this young government to meet its responsibilities. If democracy fails and the extremists prevail in Iraq, America's enemies will be stronger, more lethal, and emboldened by our defeat. Leaders in both parties understand the stakes in this struggle. We now have the opportunity to build a bipartisan consensus to fight and win the war.

America's priorities also include keeping our economy strong. The elections have not reversed the laws of economics. It is a fact that economies do best when you reward hard work by allowing people to keep more of what they have earned. And we have seen that businesses can expand and hire more workers when they have more money to invest--and since August 2003, America's employers have added more than seven million new jobs.

It is also a fact that our tax cuts have fueled robust economic growth and record revenues. Because revenues have grown and we've done a better job of holding the line on domestic spending, we met our goal of cutting the deficit in half three years ahead of schedule. By continuing these policies, we can balance the federal budget by 2012 while funding our priorities and making the tax cuts permanent. In early February, I will submit a budget that does exactly that. The bottom line is tax relief and spending restraint are good for the American worker, good for the American taxpayer, and good for the federal budget. Now is not the time to raise taxes on the American people.

By balancing the budget through pro-growth economic policies and spending restraint, we are better positioned to tackle the longer term fiscal challenge facing our country: reforming entitlements--Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid--so future generations can benefit from these vital programs without bankrupting our country.

Considering that the Democrats believe that they won the election by criticizing those policies that Bush outlines in the WSJ, I'd say the prospects for cooperation on this basis look pretty thin. The new Congressional leadership believes that they have a mandate to reverse both the Bush tax cuts and the Iraq War, and they will not rest easy until they have made significant strides towards doing so. This will put them on a collision course with the White House, regardless of whatever Bush pens for the press during the next two years.

Bush offers little new in his essay, which he acknowledges in his statement, "My principles are no secret." Bush will rely on the fact that he also won a couple of elections as an argument to continue pursuing his own policy preferences. In fact, there doesn't appear to be a lot of common ground in the article, despite its tone of reconciliation. He uses the Patriot Act as an example of bipartisan effort, which it was at the time -- but most Democrats would probably vote to repeal it now, or to gut its most effective counter-terror provisions. He also offers the No Child Left Behind Act as another example, but that might be a better example of bipartisanship in the fact that neither party much likes it now.

He makes his position clear at the end about his role over the next two years:

Our Founders believed in the wisdom of the American people to choose their leaders and provided for the concept of divided and effective government. The majority party in Congress gets to pass the bills it wants. The minority party, especially where the margins are close, has a strong say in the form bills take. And the Constitution leaves it to the president to use his judgment whether they should be signed into law.

The last sentence barely veils his reminder that he has veto power over anything Congress manages to produce -- even though one could have reasonably concluded over the last six spending-soaked years that he had an allergy to using it. He will probably get a lot more practice at vetoing legislation over the next two years now that he has no Republican majority to protect. This may not make much difference to the Democrats, who will probably have a very difficult time passing any kind of legislation, thanks to the weakness and character of their majority. They only can stand to shed a handful of votes on any bill, and the Blue Dogs outweigh that margin by at least a factor of two. Party unanimity will only last a short time; freshmen from formerly Republican districts will not risk their re-election chances by going the full Pelosi. If they do, the two-seat Democratic majority in the Senate will probably not be sufficient to push the bills through any kind of concerted Republican effort to stop them. Bush may not have an opportunity to sign or veto much, outside of normal appropriations bills.

The Democrats know this, and they will concentrate their efforts elsewhere -- such as investigations and House rules changes, where their power runs free of the executive. I suspect we will see a return of the Do-Nothings in terms of legislation, but a long, tiresome slog of probes into every nook and cranny of the White House in order to dig up any dirt that can be used in 2008 on the GOP.

It may be all niceties now, but that will dissipate quickly. Within a few months, we'll be begging for 2008 to arrive.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 3, 2007 6:03 AM

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» The President’s Message To The New Congress from Right Voices
The President wrote an op-ed article featured in the Wall Street Journal today.  The point of the article is clearly stated: Let them say of these next two years: We used our time well. I agree with Captain Ed’s assessment: he challenges the De... [Read More]

Tracked on January 3, 2007 9:20 AM


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