Sometimes, especially political leaders habituated to winning, must take losses as blessings in disguise without griping too much about dissent. President Obama, in spite of being a self-proclaimed black man on the 2010 census form despite his black and white parentage, has experienced a meteoric rise to prominence in the United States which very few presidents since George Washington in 1789 have been given by the country or the world.
Karl Rove, adviser to former President Bush, stated that Obama may have overpromised and underdelivered. This President’s problem, however, seems to be that he tempered people’s expectations far too much than was necessary and has disappointed them. Always accurate on principle but unable to translate those principles to policy because of his biases for the status quo if a bigger government is not possible, he has lost the enthusiasm behind the vote that propelled him into the White House.
The minimum 60 votes the President and the Democrats had received on the health care bill to get to a floor debate and vote to pass it into law by leveraging the Democrat majority were not there on the financial regulatory reform bill, and for good reason. The country is still undecided about the new health care law. It is close to being cynical on Main Street and deeply uncertain on Wall Street about the motives of the government about financial regulation. But both need to get done right for the country to be on a sound footing sooner than later.
As Senator Harry Reid of Nevada had pointed out, giving due respect to the opinions of his colleagues in the Senate without resorting to the kind of pressure they had experienced from the White House on health care, the Congressional calendar is indeed busy and it is time to move on other more pressing matters if sensible financial regulatory reform that can satisfy all the stakeholders cannot be passed. And there are many more issues on the plate.
First, the President needs to appoint a nominee for the Supreme Court to fill the seat being vacated by the retiring Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, and nearly half the Federal Reserve Board would be empty by June. All nominations to both institutions require Senate confirmations.
Second, the Federal Budget for the the Fiscal Year 2011 beginning October 1, 2010 must be passed, and hopefully before September 30th, 2010 without resorting to continuing resolutions as was the case in 2009 for Fiscal Year 2010. The budget debates would naturally raise the same issues which could be confronted by the proposed budget commission to bring the nation’s finances into order.
Both of the above will have to naturally precede the November 2010 mid-term elections, leaving the comprehensive energy bill, financial regulatory reform and immigration to the next Congress beginning January 2011.
The comprehensive energy bill will become an imperative for job growth by mid-2011 and will have to be tackled in the Fiscal 2012 budget, assuming some immediate term provisions to reduce dependence on foreign oil such as natural gas for the trucking industry are included in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget beginning October 1, 2010 to follow through on the President’s recent approval of domestic oil and natural gas extraction.
The crux of the energy debate, however, will revolve around the need for deep and targeted corporate tax cuts in the areas of alternative energy production, energy efficiency and transportation rather than cap and trade or carbon tax. That this issue, as Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina quite correctly judged, needs to be saved for the mid-term election season is self-evident in the fact that inflation could soon become a concern for the economy and any energy bill to raise prices will become an economic albatross rather than a savior. The Democrats cannot afford to be locked into cap and trade or energy taxation any longer.
The November 2012 election will be carried by the need for job growth sooner than 2016, government size, immigration reform, foreign policy and national security. Given that the plate for 2011 would be full most likely with the energy bill and the necessary budget provisions to pass it, either the two parties must agree on a sensible bill on financial regulatory reform or do nothing rather than pass a bill that could make most stakeholders unhappy.
In sum, the ticket for the Republicans to get back into the game in the Obama Washington would be, first and foremost, the energy bill (not the health care law which is best taken up in the context of government reform) in 2011 to be passed with corporate tax cuts for domestic job creation and the stage for it is the 2010 mid-term election.