Chaos on Capitol Hill

Washington’s Democrats are in disarray, Michael Barone writes:

Disarray. That’s one word to describe the status of the Obama administration’s legislative program as Congress heads into its final four weeks of work before the August recess. A watered-down cap-and-trade bill passed the House narrowly last month, but Sen. Barbara Boxer has decided not to bring up her version in the upper chamber until September.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, who promised a health-care bill last month, still isn’t delivering, and neither is the Health Committee’s Christopher Dodd. They’re both trying to nibble down cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, which has put the price tag at a trillion or more. But their latest ploys — broad-based tax increases, transferring more of the Medicaid burden to the states — sound like sputtering. …

In the House, there is more chaos. Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman has delayed the health-care markup he had planned for this week, giving the Administration and House leaders a chance to win over balky Blue Dog Democrats. Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel is also stymied, and says all he knows about agreements that the White House has struck with various health groups (pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, HMOs) is what he reads in the papers.

Barone puts some of the blame on President Obama:

[T]hey’re dealing with a president who has shown a striking lack of interest in details and whose signal legislative achievement so far — the $787 billion stimulus package passed in February — has visibly failed in its asserted goal of holding unemployment down to 8 percent.

It turns out that details matter, a lot, when you’re slinging around great gobs of dollars.

The big problem, though, is that the Democrats know that most Americans have little enthusiasm for their agenda. The Democrats are determined not to let the economic downturn “go to waste,” but that isn’t how voters see it:

Polls show that most voters — and increasing numbers of independents — are queasy about vastly increased government spending and more concerned about bolstering the economy than about reshaping health care or addressing projected global warming.

There was more evidence of this today, as the Rasmussen survey finds that voters oppose the administration’s health care “reform” by 49%-46%. Worse, from the Democrats’ perspective, is that those who strongly oppose the measure outnumber those who strongly favor it by almost two to one, 38%-22%.

With every week that goes by, the Democrats’ radical agenda grows more out of step with majority opinion among voters. That’s why the Democrats are getting cold feet. It will be interesting to see how much of their ambitious program ever becomes law.

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