George Will @ WaPo:
Thirty-one months ago Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell affronted the media and other custodians of propriety by saying something common-sensical. On Oct. 23, 2010, he said: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” He meant that America needed conservative change from the statist course of Obama’s presidency (the stimulus, Obamacare, etc.), therefore America needed a president who would not veto such change.
By similar reasoning, Obama today could sensibly say, and probably has said to himself, that the single most important thing he wants to achieve now is for Democrats to win control of the House in 2014. That redoubt of conservatism is an insuperable obstacle to the change he favors — ever-larger government as an instrument of wealth redistribution.
How will his objective shape policy debates this year? And what are the chances of Democrats taking the House? The answers are: considerably and minimal.
Regarding policy, Obama has devoted much of the most crucial months of his second term — those closest to his reelection and furthest from the next election — to gun control and immigration. He may think he can win by losing with both in 2013, thereby gaining two issues for 2014.
Before the 2014 elections, the gun proposals that recently failed in the Senate might, slightly revised, pass there and be voted on in the House. If they pass there, Obama has an achievement, albeit of minimal importance for public safety. If they fail, he has an issue.
He may be wrong about the politics: Most people whose votes are determined by gun issues oppose more restrictions. Or he may be right that associating the GOP with resistance to gun control will weaken the party among swing voters he thinks can deliver the House to Democrats. But gunpolicy probably is less important to him than the politics of 2014.
If comprehensive immigration reformpasses in essentially the form proposed by the Senate “Gang of Eight,” it would not much improve Democrats’ current strength with Hispanic voters, as measured byObama’s 71 percent in 2012. And a decade or more would pass before significant numbers of immigrants currently here illegally would become voters. If, however, comprehensive reform fails — and because it is comprehensive, it will be replete with small measures offensive to a cumulatively large group of legislators — this might energize Hispanic voters whose turnout otherwise would be down in a non-presidential election.
Actually, however, Democrats are more apt to lose control of the Senate than gain control of the House.
The RCP poll averages indicate that the public is far more critical of Congress than of the President. Obama presently has a 48. 6 percent job approval rating; Congress presently has a job approval rating of only 16.8 percent.
Yesterday a vote was scheduled in the Senate on Obama’s nomination of Gina McCarthy for the top slot at the EPA. Republicans responded by not showing up. On the previous day, republicans delayed a vote on Obama’s nomination of Thomas E. Perez to head the Department of Labor.
There hasn’t been a vote taken on a permanent head of the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms for the past 6 years. Obama’s most recently attempted to fill the position by nominating B. Todd Jones this past January. A hearing on the appointment has yet to be scheduled.
None of this is new. It’s the normal pattern, ever since republicans regained control of the House.
The problem isn’t Barack Obama.
@Greg: Any word on the Senate budget or per Reid, is it still not important? Any evidence on Reid’s accusations about Romney’s tax evasion? How about the Intel Leaks. Any updates on that from your side?