by Locker Room contributor
Michael Barone‘s latest Washington Examiner article explores the reasons for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s failure to win enough votes for a 1,924-page spending bill and outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s failure to block a tax deal between President Obama and congressional Republicans.
“If someone had told me, the day after election day 2008, that the tax rates on income and capital would not increase for the next four years,” wrote Bush White House staffer Keith Hennessey in his blog, “I would have laughed.”
Plenty of time for laughter now, for Hennessey and for the couple of million people who in some way, shape or form took part in the protests symbolized by but not limited to the Tea Party movement.
It is a source of continuing fascination for me to watch the interaction between public opinion, as measured in polls and election results, and the actions of members of Congress, elected in one political environment and looking in most cases to be re-elected in one that may be quite different.
Eleven months ago, after the Massachusetts Senate election, I was convinced that Democrats could not jam their health care bill through because voters had so clearly demanded they not do so. But Pelosi proved more determined and resourceful than I had imagined, and found enough House Democrats who were willing to risk electoral defeat to achieve what Democrats proclaimed was an historic accomplishment.
Pelosi and Obama predicted that Obamacare would become more popular as voters learned more about it. Those predictions were based on the theory that in times of economic distress Americans would be more supportive of or amenable to big government policies.
That theory has been disproved about as conclusively as any theory can be in the real world, and most of the Democrats who provided the key votes for Obamacare were defeated on Election Day.
Democratic congressional leaders did take note of the unpopularity of their policies when they chose not to pass budget resolutions last spring. Presumably they did so because they would have had a hard time rounding up the votes for the high spending and large deficits that would have ensued.
But had the House and Senate passed a budget resolution, Democrats might have been able to pass their preferred tax policy, raising taxes on high earners, under the budget reconciliation process. So the House vote Thursday night was a delayed consequence of the public’s long-apparent rejection of their policies.
Candidate Obama told Joe the Plumber that he wanted to “spread the wealth around.” November’s vote, presaged by more than a year of polls, was, as political scientist James Ceasar has written, “the Great Repudiation” of that policy.