Winter has returned to California and badly needed rain and snow are here again. The gray skies have not dampened spirits at all and skiers are excited to get back into the Sierra Nevada, and the rest of us are hoping for an end to a long three-year drought.
Today is proving to be a lesson in leadership – with President Obama living his promise to reach out across the political aisle. As this is being written, the President is meeting with House leaders from both parties to work though differences on the President Obama’s proposed $850 million-plus Economic Stimulus package.
The new package proposed by the President back in December, is being negotiated by members of both houses (the Senate and the House) and representing the majority party (Democrats) and the minority party (Republicans) of both houses. Republican members, especially in the House, have been pushing back against the total projected costs as well as some specific programs proposed for funding not helping create jobs.
Much of the frustration by the GOP minority of both houses (GOP is a common use for Republicans and stands for “The Grand Old Party”) have been the expressed frustration they were locked out of the process of putting the package together on the Hill by Democratic Congressional leaders.
While the Dems have more than enough votes in each house to move the package without support of the GOP, the President realized he needed to make the effort to stifle traditional partisan political tactics in order to live up to his lofty promise in his Inaugural Address.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
The desperate need to move the stimulus package is clearly a concern for the President. When he discussed the need for this massive investment in December, the President had hoped to be able to have the package ready for his signature upon his arrival in the White House. The mechanical writing of the bill, coupled with objections by the GOP in both houses has slowed the effort to pass the legislation and deliver it to the President for his signature.
So, the temptation to jam the bill through by Democratic leadership as fast as possible, over Republican objections is pretty high. The political credit of being able to have delivered a stimulus package over GOP objections could be a useful political tool for the mid-term Congressional elections, just a short time off in 2010. For the GOP, the ability to prevent or severely negate the Dems funding proposals could be a needed political victory needed in making the case for their members in the 2010 election cycle.
Sounds like political business as usual.
President Obama is reaching out to both Dems and GOP leadership, not that he has too, but he said he would. The bigger picture here is the Bush administration ignored and virtually treated the legislative branch as marginally relevant. It was not just the Democratic members who felt ignored by President Bush. GOP members of both Houses openly expressed frustrations and outright anger, at the Executive Branch’s belief they solely were going to run the country.
At the end of the day, the effort to build relationships on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are critical for the success of both branches and both parties.
The President’s long-term ability to move his larger political initiatives into law are limited without building goodwill and support on Capitol Hill. There is a long road to build as far as relationships between the White House and the Hill and relationships between the two parties.
The meeting today does not mean the proposed economic stimulus package will meet all GOP concerns. Whether the package gets altered and concerns addressed is yet to be seen. The new target date for the bill to land on the President’s desk is February 16.
Today’s meeting in the White House is a good starting place to live up to avoid the old trap of “Do as I say, not as I do.”
More on the relationship between the White House and Congress next week!