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Should Obama get tough with Congress?
Should President Barack Obama be more assertive in pushing the rest of his legislative agenda?
…and the answer is, of course, “Yes.” Presidents always need to get tough with Congress. They particularly need to get tough with Congress when both the legislative and executive branches are held by the same party; when that happens, the former is prone to using the golden opportunity to do something extravagant and stupid… like, say, trying to pass two insanely expensive, ill-thought, transformational pieces of unpopular legislation right after passing a recklessly high, pork-laden spending bill on a party-line vote. First-term Presidents doubly particularly need to get tough with Congress, assuming of course that they want to also be second-term Presidents. So, it’s the wrong question.
The right question is:
Can Obama get tough with Congress?
The President obviously can be more assertive – that’s not particularly hard – but whether he’s actually able to make Congress do things has yet to be determined. There’s been no indication that he even knows how. And the primary carrot/stick that the administration was going to use for compliance (“I will campaign for Democrats who follow my lead.”) looked a lot more credible as a promise/threat in January 2009 than it does today. Just ask Governors Deeds & Corzine, not to mention Senator Coakley.
All in all, at this point it may simply be too late for President to acquire any control over the 111st Congress. And the future leaders of the 112th Congress have been busily taking notes.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.