What We Need: A Do Nothing Congress

Brian Beutler has a terrific run down of what went wrong tactically with the Democratic Congress last week (S-CHIP, FISA, etc.) But Beutler still is looking at the tactical picture and looking at a Congress that he wants to do something. The problem is that, and this is true, they do not have the votes to do something in contested areas like S-CHIP, Iraq funding and FISA. This mistaken focus is exemplified here:

There is no hypothetical package of enticements the Democrats can offer a Republican that outweigh the price that that Republican will pay within his own party. He'll only be treated leniently when his party bosses realize that, if they don't let him vote with the opposition, he might lose his seat. At some point the Republicans realized something crucial: That, for now anyhow, upholding the veto is politically neutral. . . .

What does this mean? It means that even on issues as politically popular as S-CHIP, Bush can stop all Democratic initiatives. The question is then what can the Democrats do? Simply this, END all the Bush travesties. Iraq, FISA, etc. By using the power of the purse and NOT funding them. More.

The question then becomes, as always, a political one, for the Democrats. How would such a counterintuitive strategy of achievement, of NOT doing, be sold politically?

KagroX writes today about Iraq funding:

In the meantime, Bush uses the same old leverage to scare the Dems — the ones who won office to oppose this sort of nonsense — into standing the Constitution on its head, and feeling “forced” to rubber stamp whatever ridiculous request the president makes.

The WaPo correctly describes the landscape:

The Democrats who won control of Congress last year on the back of public opposition to the Iraq war instantly denounced Bush's spending plan and ridiculed him for seeking so much for the conflicts after vetoing the expansion of a children's health insurance program just weeks earlier. But Bush's proposal will force Democrats to confront the politically volatile choice of again following his lead or refusing to provide everything he wants.

What's more, the debate may play out just as the presidential nominating campaigns reach their climax. Although Bush wants the spending approved within two months, Democrats said the military does not need the money until early February, and they do not anticipate acting until early next year. Presidential voting begins with Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3 and the nominations could be sealed when voters in about 22 states cast ballots Feb. 5.

How do you see this one ending?

If one accepts the analytical structure that Beutler adopts, that Congress must do “something,” to have political achievements, then indeed the ending is easy to see. But if a different understanding can be brought to bear, then the ending can be quite different.

The Power of Doing Nothing must be understood and embraced. It is the the only tool available now.

And this produces a dilemma for the Democratic base and progressives, online and off. How to pressure, through carrots and sticks, to produce this change of perspective? I hope at the least we can all embrace these Democratic representatives:

Dear Mr. President:
Seventy House Members wrote in July to inform you that they will only support appropriating additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq during Fiscal Year 2008 and beyond for the protection and safe redeployment of our troops out of Iraq before you leave office.

Now you are requesting an additional $45 billion to sustain your escalation of U.S. military operations in Iraq through next April, on top of the $145 billion you requested for military operations during FY08 in Iraq and Afghanistan. Accordingly, even more of us are writing anew to underscore our opposition to appropriating any additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq other than a time-bound, safe redeployment as stipulated above.


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    • Armando on October 23, 2007 at 16:53

    But it becomes critical now.

    • Edger on October 23, 2007 at 17:53

    is a “do something” electorate.

    An electorate that will hold the Democratic Congress’ feet to the fire, force them to “do nothing”, and Never Give An Inch until these complicit cowards DO what they were hired in November 2006 to do.

    It’s almost too late now.

  1. I am writing about the flip side of this right now….

    How much will they CONTINUE to be a do nothing power after gaining control in ’08.

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