Arguing for More Push-Back
This super-durable bungee cord must have the force of law, meaning it will be woven by Democratic legislators now exerting as much pressure on President Obama's left as congressional Republicans focused on President Bush's right.
When, for instance, Obama hedged on his promise to revoke $226 billion worth of Bush's upper-income tax cuts, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) pushed him to fulfill the pledge and put the money into programs that better guarantee job creation.
When Obama initially offered up a stimulus bill filled with discredited business tax breaks, Democratic senators forced him to back off. Reps. David Obey, D-Wisc., and Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., then argued that the president's proposed infrastructure investments were too small to boost the economy. That led House Democrats to increase Obama's spending targets.
As stimulus negotiations continued, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., tried to add provisions letting courts renegotiate banks' primary-residence mortgages so as to prevent more foreclosures. It's a commonsense proposal: Judges already have the power to renegotiate vacation-home mortgages, and the New York Federal Reserve Bank says existing bankruptcy laws are exacerbating the foreclosure crisis. While Obama opposed the initiative out of fear that banking industry opposition might slow the underlying stimulus bill, Conyers' effort ultimately made the president commit to supporting the reforms in future legislation.
Then there was the progressive reaction to Obama's demand for more financial bailout money. Turning a routine committee hearing into a modern-day incarnation of the Great Depression's Pecora Commission, Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., upbraided a Federal Reserve official for refusing to disclose which banks are receiving taxpayer dollars. The spectacle was one of many that whipped the House into passing a bill attaching strings to the funds. Obama responded by committing to enact some of the restrictions by fiat.
At once complementary and adversarial, this intragovernmental squabbling probably makes the conflict-averse Obama uncomfortable. But the "make him do it" dynamic could finally bring the center of Washington's political debate closer to the progressive center of American public opinion. Even more importantly, it is precisely what will help the new president avert an economic disaster.
Believe it or not, but I think the blogosphere is actually very helpful in efforts like these. Keep demaning actual liberalism from Democrats. Some are listening.