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Could We All Be Wrong


Could We All Be Wrong?


Common wisdom in Washington today is that little or nothing will pass the second session of the 113th Congress. After all, in 2013 Congress passed the fewest laws in a session of Congress in modern history. That is not necessarily all bad. However, Obamacare is failing with the speed of light; the economy continues in the doldrums having never really recovered from the recession of 2008; and American children seem to fall farther behind the rest of the world in education. Clearly there are problems which deserve legislative attention.


But in this case, common wisdom about Congress might just be wrong. The failure of Obamacare has put many of the Senate Democrats who are up for election in 2014 in deep trouble, especially those who were first elected in 2008. They have only one legislative accomplishment to brag about: Obamacare. At best, this is a dubious achievement.


Senator Reid’s theme the past three years has been (with apologies to Irving Berlin), “Anything you can do I can do better, I can do nothing better than you.”


Senator Reid has made it his number one job as Majority Leader the last three years to stop anything from passing and even to stop votes on controversial issues. This is the reason that we have had so many filibusters started by Senator Reid “filling the amendment tree” in the senate and stopping all debate and legislative action. The result is a class of senators whose only victories were the highest deficits in U.S. history and the stellar passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.


Everyone in Washington expects that Senator Reid will continue his path of legislative obstruction right through the election of 2014. But a couple of recent actions have put a crack in the cocoon that has been placed around these vulnerable Senate Democrats.


First, the modest agreement on the budget was allowed to proceed. Even more improbably, the Democrats allowed the deal to proceed without demanding that an extension of Unemployment Insurance be included in the agreement. That, of course, would have killed any deal, but that is what everyone expected up to the very moment the deal was announced.


That was followed last week by a leak that an agreement had been reached on the outlines of a deal on Trade Promotion Authority to allow the US to conclude international trade agreements with partners in the Pacific and possibly with the European Union.


If the TPA is passed and the trade deals move forward, then the Senate Democrats will have something else to brag about. Admittedly, this doesn’t do much for the House Democrats who are less supportive of free trade agreements.


If this pattern proves true – and if Senate Democrats become even more desperate for any achievements to offset their votes for Obamacare – we may see actual legislative activity in 2014.  Those who are informed and prepared to act on these opportunities may find positive outcomes.  After all, if TPA passes, can the elimination of the medical device tax be far behind?


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