Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Gridlock or cooperation in Washington's future?


John Boehner, likely the next speaker of the House
By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Now that the Republicans have handily recaptured control of the House of Representatives, the question left to be answered is: how will this affect the business of government?
The fact that the election’s results were so influenced by the Tea Party makes one wonder if this will just result in a stalemated Congress for the next two years. And if so, whether that helps or hurts President Obama’s re-election hopes.
The best-case scenario for the nation would, of course, be a reaching across the aisle and a hefty degree of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. But given the particularly nasty campaign and atmosphere, and given that the Tea Party-backed candidates promised no compromise on certain key issues, the fear is that government may bog down.
Of course, some in the Tea Party might welcome such gridlock. If nothing’s being accomplished, Congress, they might argue, can’t do anymore damage to the nation.
But because the Senate remains in the control of the Democrats, the Tea Party Republicans will need to temper their agenda if they want to get anything done.  The issue they face is that those who supported this sweeping change in Congress believe they were part of a real reformation movement. And they’re pledging to keep an eye on this new Congress. To make certain that it lives up to its collective campaign promises.
In the end, that could lead to disappointment in, and rejection of, some of the newcomers.
If, on the other hand, there is a real push in the House to actually roll back the new health care reform bill, for example, one can be assured that the Senate Democrats will block it. It’s also likely that President Obama will struggle to get anything on his agenda accomplished.
In the end, the American people will sit in judgment again. If such a stalemate forms, many will blame the Democrats for being obstructionists – blocking the Tea Party agenda. Others will blame the Republicans for tying the hands of the president. Each party will spin the political roadblock as the fault of the other. And perhaps that leads us right back to where we were during this well-financed antagonistic campaign. With each party and its surrogates trying to outspend the other with attack ads.
All the while, the nation will continue to face a horrific crisis. So, to borrow from the story of Nero, the politicians will attack while the United States burns. Perhaps those who will suffer the greatest disappointment will be the Tea Party supporters who thought they had joined a grassroots take back the nation campaign.

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