Since Barack Obama took office in Jan 2009, he has signed several major bills. Depending on where you stand in the political spectrum and your individual expectations, those bills are either monumental achievements, watered down and worthless, or the end of democracy as we know it. There has been a lot of talk about the inability of the Democrats to get anything done. That of course is not the case. Perhaps it's the notion (in the minds of both legislators and political activists) that every bill has to be an all-encompassing game-changer. It seems every bill has to be a home run.
The reality, of course, is that games can be won with RBIs and batters hitting singles and doubles. Batters that consistently hit singles and doubles often do much more to help a team win than the guy who strikes out several times trying to put one over the wall. The home run may be more crowd pleasing and dramatic, but they don't always help in the big picture.
Consider the Healthcare Reform bill, the Wall Street reform bill, and pending campaign finance and environmental bills. Every one is big and controversial. Every one ends up getting watered down, much to the chagrin of progressives. At the same time, numerous small bills end up going through much more quickly, and without the need for campaign-rhetoric camera-ready protests from the Republicans.
For example - the healthcare bill took most of 2009. There were several components to it, each a discrete and necessary part of the whole picture. However, the whole picture didn't need to be in the entire bill, and - in fact - the "public option" got watered way down to get the bill through. As a result, that one component is now a separate new bill
being introduced in the House. Will it have all of the hoopla surrounding it like the big bill did? It's not likely, which should help the bill pass through the House and Senate more quickly, and emerge at the end undiluted.
Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is introducing new campaign finance reform legislation
. The tactic this time is to bring it straight to the floor without marking it up in committee. That should help sidestep the cloture problems in committee (not to mention the Blue Dogs taking the teeth out of it). It's a smaller cleaned up bill than that passed by the House. Hopefully, the House will be willing to accept it. Hopefully they will realize they can pass additional legislation in the future to strengthen it. That will likely be necessary anyway as companies find loopholes.
As to the Energy bill - it appears to be headed to the scrap bin
. Again, they tried to create a "comprehensive bill" that did too much. I would urge them to put together several small bills: one for CAFE standards, one for greenhouse emissions, one for funding alternative energy, etc. It's better for 3 small bills to pass and one to fail than to have one big bill fail and get none of it.
This is going to require more work from the congresspeople, and more patience, understanding, and support from those that are expecting change. Instead of demanding that these bills contain every little pet cause, we should be demanding that every component be a separate bill. We will get more done, get it done in shorter cycles, and with less problems. Forget the home runs - RBIs will win the game.
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