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A New (Administrative) Day?

December 17, 2010

This morning the Wall St. Journal is headlining the new tax bill — which I was positive would not pass, so I’ll eat some humble pie there — is a sign that the Obama Administration is taking a new direction.  Signaling that the administration is willing to work on other initiatives, the WSJ says:

The drive toward compromise is central to Mr. Obama’s work to restore his image as someone who can change Washington, and to reclaim the independent voters who propelled him to office in 2008 but abandoned Democrats in 2010. Senior White House officials see the tax compromise as a model heading into the era of divided government.

“If we, or they, are unwavering in our positions, we won’t get anything done, at least in the Congress. And that’s a political loser for everybody,” senior adviser David Axelrod said.

We could look at various reasons for change, such as Rahm Emmanuel heading to Chicago while David Axelrod spends more time in the West Wing.  But I still wonder if this is really a tack to the center, or is it a pragmatic approach to giving in to get bigger things?  After all, some Democrats are saying that this will act as a second stimulus, and Charles Krauthammer is certainly not a proponent of the tax bill as it was passed.

The compromise approach has prompted doubts in both parties. Many Democrats argue that Republicans show little interest in meeting the White House halfway and predict 2011 will produce more confrontation than cooperation.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, has been meeting with White House budget director Jacob Lew in an attempt to lay the groundwork for cooperation. But he remains skeptical.

“I don’t know how far the president is willing to move off his ideology,” Mr. Ryan said. “My guess is he won’t want to do it but he might feel like he has to.”

So not everyone’s a convert.  And count me in that camp.

My expectation is that the administration is going to remain faithful to its base, and will likely run into some combative situations with a new congress that goes much farther right, and has a somewhat large constituency of Tea Party favorites.  While I don’t expect gridlock, I do expect that the rhetoric is not going to diminish.

And I still expect that the Democrat minority in congress is going to make quite a bit of noise as well.  They have a model in the way the Republicans managed to scrape off an occasional Democrat to win minor victories, and I would think they’ll use that model pretty effectively.

Overall, I’m not a huge fan of gridlock, but a congress that can’t agree on bills that a president will sign might mean a few less tax dollars out of the pockets of Americans.  The new direction, if there is one, from the Administration should be an early signal as to the future results.

Updated: Ed Morrissey notes that what’s new for one administration might actually just be an old administration’s idea.

The Democrats voted for Obama’s deal, but Obama’s deal consisted of endorsing the tax rates proposed by George W. Bush in toto. Not just the income tax rates, either, but also the capital-gains tax rates that Obama insisted on raising during the 2008 campaign to either 20% or 28%.  In the end, those tax rates got more votes last night in a Democratic-controlled House (277) than they did in the GOP-controlled House in 2001 (230), and more Democrats voted to extend them than Republicans, 139-138.

If that’s a victory for Obama, may the next two years be filled with such victories.

I mostly agree… I think this is a sign that the old ideas weren’t as bad as the Left thought during the elections, but I wouldn’t expect that this will become the norm from a direction standpoint.

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