Here's my recent post to the W&M American Constitution Society blog, on "Mitigating the Filibuster." Without the Republicans' abuse of the Senate's arcane rules, President Obama would already have signed health care reform and climate change reform into law. Period.
As for the State of the Union last night, I thought it was an excellent speech. Obama made his priorities clear and reaffirmed his belief in the principles that we elected him for — that the American people are resilient, that Washington must change the way it governs, that we must end the war in Iraq, and that government must provide a better social safety net for the least among us. Since his election, a new priority has emerged of necessity: that government must do a better job of regulating the financial system. Our growth in the 2000s was largely the result of speculation and the housing bubble. The growth went largely unnoticed for the average American, who saw his wages decline during that period. We can't keep building on a house of sand. He was also right to say that without the stimulus package, we would be in much, much worse shape than we are today.
I disagreed with him on a few points. A three-year spending freeze on discretionary spending is unrealistic, won't do much to cut the deficit, and is essentially pandering to the Blue Dogs in the House. He basically quoted that part from a speech that John Boehner gave last year, but I'm sure Republicans will still find a way to criticize him for it. He's also wrong about the Citizens United decision, the one that allows corporate spending on campaigns. The outcome's going to be bad, at least in the near term, but you can't criticize a Supreme Court decision simply because you don't like the outcome. The conservative justices got the law right — the First Amendment protects the right of people who incorporate to speak about political candidates. Any legislation that Congress passes in response will be a waste of time, and will probably get struck down.
I found the reaction of the Republicans to a few key parts of the speech absolutely amazing. They paint Obama as a tax and spend liberal but when he said — quite truthfully — that his administration has not raised taxes once, but in fact has cut taxes 25 times, the Republicans sat on their hands. They don't like lower taxes? Hmm, that's funny. When he said that the biggest banks (not all the banks, just the ones that got TARP funds) should have to pay a fee until the rest of the bailout money is repaid, the Republicans sat on their hands. Really!?! The banks shouldn't have to repay the bailout money? Also, why do Senate Republicans (except Judd Gregg) oppose the creation of a bipartisan commission on reducing the federal deficit? I thought it was clear last night that Republicans will oppose Obama even if he proposes initiatives that are consistent with their ideology.
Also, he was right to tell Democrats not to "run for the hills" just because of the special election in Massachusetts. They do still have huge majorities and if they pass a jobs bill, and the economy keeps growing, they'll keep most of those majorities in November. He's also right to keep calling for more transparency. It's Congress that's sitting on its hands. They should post all earmark requests online, so that we know which members are increasing the deficit, by how much, and for which projects. And it's about time we repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. What a moronic policy, keeping people in the closet. Finally, health care reform will get done, as it should.
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