:The Menendez rebellion was a jolt of political reality for Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Obama, signaling that the solidarity of the stimulus debate is fading as Democratic lawmakers are starting to read the fine print of the bills they will wrestle with in the coming weeks and months, and not always liking what they see.
Menendez knew that his hard-line approach to Cuba was a minority view within his party, and that it was at odds with Obama's approach. But he did not expect to discover a significant policy change embedded in the text on an appropriations bill. His policy aides came across the language when the legislation was posted on a congressional Web site.
"The process by which these changes have been forced upon this body is so deeply offensive to me, and so deeply undemocratic, that it puts the omnibus appropriations package in jeopardy, in spite of all the other tremendously important funding that this bill would provide," the enraged son of Cuban immigrants said last week on the Senate floor. Menendez even slapped a hold on a pair of Obama nominees to draw attention to the issue.
If you're wondering why a spending bill has in it a provision that would quietly change our Cuba policy, it's really very simple: the Democrats want to change our Cuba policy, they control Congress, and they can thus put anything in the appropriations bill that they blessed well feel like putting in. "Appropriate" or "inappropriate" doesn't really enter into it; what's important is that they can do something, they desire to do something, and so they will do something.
The article also mentions Democratic efforts to keep subsidizing private student loan companies and farmers (at least, the ones in Nebraska and North Dakota). But that's just ordinary pork from Ben Nelson and Kent Conrad; what makes the Menendez balk interesting is because it's supposedly based on a moral objection.
As it happens, I agree that our Cuba policy should be relaxed, partially because it serves no real purpose anymore and partially because better that it happens now than in three or seven years, when a Republican President can take the blame for losing the war of nerves with Castro - but it is interesting to see the first cracks in the Democratic line here. No doubt that in this case Menendez will get a fig leaf to let him keep telling himself that he's not betrayed the memory of his parents' suffering, and that Nelson and Conrad will be paid off. But one problem of having a permanent campaign and acting as if there's an unending crisis is that you never get to enjoy the fruits of victory. There will come a time when a Democratic Senator will not be able to swallow what his or her party is trying to cram down that Senator's throat; and when that happens, the outrage that will result may surprise the unobservant.
As it stands, Menendez should probably be grateful that he's not up for re-election in 2010.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.