As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Full Speed Ahead On The Budget

The Administration has obviously sensed discomfort among Blue Dogs and moderate squishes who think the change election of 2008 actually meant that nothing should change. So starting yesterday, we are seeing a full court press on getting his budget proposal passed. This is safe ground for President Obama, where he and the majority of the public are on the same side. And he's employing a multi-pronged attack:

During an appearance on Tuesday at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Mr. Obama took a swipe at Republican critics of his $3.6 trillion budget and its agenda for health care, energy, taxes and economic recovery.

“If there are members of Congress who object to specific policies and proposals in this budget, then I ask them to be ready and willing to propose constructive, alternative solutions,” Mr. Obama said. “ ‘Just say no’ is the right advice to give your teenagers about drugs. It is not an acceptable response to whatever economic policy is proposed by the other party.”

The strong words were the latest in a push that has come to resemble elements of the two-year-long presidential campaign. Mr. Obama may hold his second prime-time news conference as president, perhaps as early as next week, to talk up the budget.

On Wednesday and Thursday, he is taking his budget show on the road to California, where he will hold two town-hall-style meetings and will even try to talk about the economy on Thursday on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Supporters of Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign have been receiving a barrage of e-mail urging them to call their Congressional representatives to voice support of Mr. Obama’s economic recovery plans.

In particular, Organizing for America is really taking an active role. They have a call Congress tool with an example script for those calls, and today they released a message from Obama himself urging people to either call Congress or participate in a canvass for the budget this weekend. And the messaging is right - that we cannot use the current crisis as an excuse to ignore the long-term challenge in our economy, that investing in the future will ensure that a crisis like this does not happen again. It's the post-bubble economic strategy.

What Congress really hates is the proposed use of budget reconciliation to evade the filibuster. Republicans like filibusters because they get a piece of the action. Moderate Democrats like filibusters because they hate being held accountable for their votes, and with only 50 needed they have to side with Obama and the people or the anti-progressive forces of obstruction. Peter Orszag makes a good case for reconciliation, which more than anything is a neogtiating tactic.

Orszag said he wouldn't rule it out, however. The legislative tactic is being considered to push through Obama's global warming and health care programs, and perhaps his proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy.

"We'd like to avoid it if possible," Orszag told reporters at a luncheon in Washington. "But we're not taking it off the table." [...]

There is plenty of historical precedent of using it by both parties, including Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who used it force through big tax cuts.

"Pretty much every major piece of budget legislation going back to April 1981, April '82, April 1990, April 1993, the 1990 act, the 2001 tax legislation, they were all done through reconciliation. Yet somehow this is being presented as an unusual thing," Orszag said.

"The historical norm as opposed to the exception is for a major piece of budget legislation to move through reconciliation."

Judd Gregg is whining about it, calling it "running over the minority." I would term it more as "giving the people what they want," but YMMV. Of course, Evan Bayh and his new Obstructionist caucus would be hostile to this tactic, but the members of it aren't even willing to admit their membership, so that seems less than cohesive.

I would be more excited about this if it wasn't coming on the same week as the AIG mess that represents a real threat to the Obama agenda. If they manage to take care of that, the White House has a real opportunity here to pummel Senate Democrats into acceptance.

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