The Real Legacy Of George W. Bush
I usually post a link to "Budget Battles," my weekly column on nationlajournal.com, within a day or so of it being published. But this week I decided to wait a few extra days because of a presentation I was asked to make about the column to a number of members of the House of Representatives. For those of you who haven't seen it, here's the link.
The column talks about the increasingly obvious decision of the Bush administration to be satisfied with not having a positive legacy.
In spite of the fact that it had a Republican majority to work with through its first six years and one of the highest positive approval ratings of any presidency in U.S. history immediately after Septermber 11, none of the few Bush administration legislative or administrative accomplishments have achieved much or these days are thought of favorably. My guess is that most people now have a great deal of trouble even coming up with something they consider a Bush policy achievement. Instead, they'll remember Iraq and Afghanistan, Katrina, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in anything but flattering terms. It will be worse in a few years.
What makes this most interesting is that the White House doesn't seem to be taking any steps to change this going into the president's last year in office. As this session of Congress ended, the administration seemed even less willing to work with the House and Senate than ever before and far more intent on getting credit for stopping anything than for making something happen.
This will only get worse next year. The White House seems to have decided that its mission is prevent a Democrat-controlled Congress from doing anything. My guess is that, if it were possible (and it isn't), the White House would object to and veto standard procedural motions in the House and Senate to dispense with the reading of the previous day's journal.
The members I spoke with last week, most of who had wanted to work with the White House this year, seemed far less confident about their ability to accommodate and compromise with the president next year. In fact, although we didn't get into specifics, they were talking about being far less cooperative next year.
This means several things for 2008.
First, unless there is a crisis that forces the White House and Congress to do something, expect next to nothing to actually happen.
Second, expect the White House to do everything it can to put Congress in a difficult position. For example, the Bush fiscal 2007 budget, which will be sent to Congress in late January or early February, is likely to include deep cuts in spending. Like it did this year, the White House will then draw a line in the sand and tell Congress that any spending over this level will be vetoed. Congress will respond by cutting every Republican-preferred program and earmark. That will make it hard to get the votes needed to pass individual appropriations bills and lead to another continuing resolution.
Second, congressional Democrats will respond by trying to force Republicans to vote on the Bush-proposed spending reductions. This will lead to even more filibusters in the Senate than we had this year. That will shift most of the action to the House, where the leadership will be accused by the White House and congressional Republicans of bringing up bills that have no chance of being enacted. House Republicans will be faced with the choice of voting with the president on spending cuts their constiutents don't want or voting with the Democrats in the hope that the Senate will stop them from happening.
In other words, hard feelings could exist not just between the White House and Congress but between House and Senate Republicans.
Finally, expect that congressional Democrats will do more things the White House can't veto and Republicans can't filibuster -- like hold hearings and conducting investigations.
This makes an economic stimulus bill or any kind far less likely than anyone has yet discussed. The economy will have to be in an unambiguous tailspin for the White House to allow a Democratic-proposed legislative initiative to be put in place.