On The Road To 2008 - Commentary on issues as we countdown to the next opportunity to change the direction of America

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The First 100 Hours and Beyond

After all that we've been through in the past few years, it is still taking myself, and I'm sure many others, time for last week's Democratic sweep to really sink in. I began this blog two years ago, giving myself a four year commitment on the road to the 2008 presidential elections. We're halfway there, and this year was a hard slog and a constant battle, but it resulted in a great victory.

So now that the Democrats have won control of not only the U.S. House, but also the Senate, what's next?

Well, come January we should fully expect them to act on the "First 100 Hours" plan put forth by Nancy Pelosi, expected to become the first woman Speaker of the House.

So what's in that plan?

Day One: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation."

Day Two: Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Time remaining until 100 hours: Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, maybe in one step. Cut the interest rate on student loans in half. Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.

Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds _ "I hope with a veto-proof majority," [Pelosi] added in an Associated Press interview Thursday.

All the days after that: "Pay as you go," meaning no increasing the deficit, whether the issue is middle class tax relief, health care or some other priority.

To do that, she said, Bush-era tax cuts would have to be rolled back for those above "a certain level." She mentioned annual incomes of $250,000 or $300,000 a year and higher, and said tax rates for those individuals might revert to those of the Clinton era. Details will have to be worked out, she emphasized.

"We believe in the marketplace," Pelosi said of Democrats, then drew a contrast with Republicans. "They have only rewarded wealth, not work."

"We must share the benefits of our wealth" beyond the privileged few, she added.
It is unfortunate that Day One has to be wasted dealing with the lobbyist problem, but that's where politics are at these days. If that's not addressed up front it will continue to infest everything that follows. Of course it isn't just the lobbyists that are the problem, it is the legislation that's become too complex. Legislators can't read it all and often get caught with their pants down after they discover what they've voted on. There's too much pork in the bills and hopefully we won't see any new "bridges to nowhere".

With Mike McGavick losing his Senate bid to Maria Cantwell I half expect he'll start his career cycle again by becoming an insurance industry lobbyist in D.C. No doubt the pharmaceutical and insurance industry will be desperate to protect themselves from Democratic attempts to reintroduce a concept long lost in the neo-con brand of capitalism now in place: competition.

Now that the Democrats have control of the House, we won't have to worry about Dave Reichert holding up enacting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, whether he wins or loses against Darcy Burner. Making this a priority in the first 100 hours is a message to the nation that the Democratic party is just as committed to national security as anyone, and surely more than the do-nothing Republican party that sat on these recommendations during the past couple of years.

Raising the minimum wage is long overdue. None of that "Trifecta Bill" nonsense this time. Just get it done.

As for stem cell research, there is hope that enough votes in both houses can be found to avoid a Bush veto (a 2/3 majority is necessary). Americans have shown their support for stem cell research, and I suspect those in Congress teetering on voting in favor will be swayed by the November 7 outcome. Politicians don't like losing their jobs, and this could be a vote that sticks with them in 2008, so I have high hopes the 110th Congress can get this done.

Finally tax fairness will be addressed. I suspect that this might take longer than a few hours to deal with, but it has to be done. As a nation we are in denial about our spending and why taxes are necessary. Our recklessness has placed a dark cloud on our future that needs to be removed. It will take time and discipline to eliminate the deficits entirely and reduce the debt, but it has to be done and Democrats have proven themselves more capable of that in the past decades.

Notice what is not on the list? Iraq and investigations.

The big debate going on these days is whether articles of impeachment should be drafted against Bush and Cheney. I personally don't think the nation wants to have business in Congress tied up in the circus that would come with impeachment proceedings, regardless of how merited they would be, and I think the Democratic leadership understands this. However, the lesser reprimand of censure may be one that they consider, as Senator Feingold did last winter. To not publicly reprimand this administration would be to accept what they've done, and open the door to future administrations to do so as well. Censure doesn't have to become a distraction if it is done swiftly and forcefully. It should be seriously considered.

Dealing with Iraq will obviously be on everyone's priority list. The mess in Iraq isn't getting any better, and threatens to become worse. We should soon be hearing the recommendations from the Baker commission, and the new Congressional leadership offers a chance for new decisions to be made regarding the situation.

After the 2004 elections I predicted that Iraq would play a big role in upcoming elections. Back then I wrote:
We've seen how quickly a political party's fortunes can be reversed by a discontent citizenry. Republicans would be foolish to believe their current dominance cannot be wiped out. The Iraq war and aftermath will be a lingering concern well into the 2008 campaign season that will start in 2007. Events will not progress fast enough to resolve matters early enough for it not to be. World security, economic costs, lives lost, will all be issues on the table for future presidential candidates to debate. Come 2008 it may be deja vu all over again.
As we saw, Republican dominance was wiped out and Iraq lingers on. There is little doubt that we will be squabbling over how to deal with the problem, and then how to deal with the problems that ensue from those decisions, for the next two years at least, so Iraq will continue to play a large role in the political future of this country.

So for now, as we recover from the long election campaign season, we can already discern some of what will shape the next few months. In a year's time the leading presidential candidates will have emerged and the platform they will run on will be greatly influenced by how American's respond to the changes that occur early on. I have a feeling that the Republican party will try to shift left and that the battle for the center will once again take place. Given how far right the Bush administration has taken us, a shift to the center-left is almost necessary to counter. Democrats should be well placed to influence the agenda and set their presidential candidate up for a strong showing in 2008.

Buckle up and get ready for the ride!

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