It took six weeks for the tremors of the November election to finally be felt in the nation’s capital. On Thursday, lame-duck Democrats were in retreat, confusion and turmoil while they still tenuously held majorities in both houses of Congress. Election Day, November 2, may have been the paper electoral defeat for Democrats. But Thursday, December 16, the rout was the real thing as it dramatically played out in both congressional chambers. And it all happened on the 237th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.
By any political standards, Thursday was a wild day. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was disgraced as he was forced to pull his ridiculous 2,000-page $1.2 trillion spending bill from the floor. On the other side of the Capitol, meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced to pull the president’s own tax bill from the House floor as she met behind closed doors with frantic and angry fellow Democrats. A few minutes before midnight the White House prevailed and got the tax bill passed. But at what cost? What deals did they make? And what comes next from angry left-wing Democrats is anybody’s guess.
The real winners may be a number of out-of-favor fiscal conservatives who have lived in the political wilderness for many years. In the Senate, it may mean new prestige and influence for Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC). In the House it will mean more sway for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), and perhaps Tea Party caucus chair Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). They have the momentum after Washington outdid itself in trying to ram through a federal spending bill that was obscene even by Washington standards.
About a day ago the Democrats unveiled a stunning 2,000-page $1.2 trillion spending bill and gave Republicans less than 24 hours to read it before a vote. It was shades of the ObamaCare vote all over again.
The obscenity was there, but the mainstream media played down the continued trickery, deviousness, and dumbness of it all. Finally the meltdown occurred and the earmark kings in both the Democrat and Republican parties had to concede defeat. Sen. Reid pulled the bill from consideration without a vote. A new bill will be drafted in February by a new Congress, and if there is gridlock, it is possible that we may see another government shutdown.
On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, meanwhile, a cool Barack Obama has become ice cold and bitter. He has a become the shrinking president, much as Bill Clinton diminished about a year after sitting in the Oval Office. But the left never really vilified Clinton. Today, the “angry left” that many in the MSM tut-tutted when it targeted President Bush has now turned its venom on its own Democratic president.
The swelling revolt among Democrats throughout this town will continue to propagate and grow. It will be fascinating to see how the political year unfolds. Will the wild wing of the party seek a primary challenger to Obama? Will a number of Democrats switch parties and join the Republicans as is rumored? Will vulnerable Senate Democrats cut new deals with the Republicans? And what will be the relationship between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House when she is in the minority and out of power and Obama still is with his Mandarins in the Oval Office? Pelosi’s relationship is said to be frigid at best with Obama. How she reacts will be entertaining.
So in February there will be a new federal spending bill before Congress and fiscal hawks in both the Republican and Democratic parties may have the momentum. For now the earmark kings are in retreat. What kind of budget that emerges under Republican stewardship will be an early test as to whether the GOP understands the political climate. Time will tell.