Lib­er­als see open­ing on Hill Un­hap­pi­ness with tea party pro­vides op­por­tu­nity

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JAC­QUE­LINE KLI­MAS

As grow­ing num­bers of vot­ers and even some top Repub­li­cans in Congress ex­press un­hap­pi­ness with the tea party af­ter a gov­ern­ment shut­down and crit­i­cism of the bud­get deal, pro­gres­sive lib­er­als like Sens. Bernie San­ders and El­iz­a­beth War­ren are try­ing to fill a space in the po­lit­i­cal de­bate by push­ing is­sues such as in­come in­equal­ity and in­creas­ing min­i­mum wage.

It’s un­likely, how­ever, that they’ll get very far in 2014, which is shap­ing up to be as un­pro­duc­tive as 2013, ac­cord­ing to one Demo­cratic strate­gist.

“I can’t see much dif­fer­ence be­tween 2013 and 2014. House Repub­li­cans in par­tic­u­lar made it very clear they’re not in­ter­ested in leg­is­lat­ing,” said Jim Man­ley, a for­mer aide to Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Harry Reid. “I think we’re in for a long de­bate on some im­por­tant is­sues, but I’m not so sure — with the ex­cep­tion of nom­i­na­tions and ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills — [that] we’re go­ing to see much done this year.”

Mr. San­ders, Vermont in­de­pen­dent and one of the most lib­eral law­mak­ers in the Se­nate, posted his pri­or­i­ties for 2014 on Mon­day in a blog on Huff­in­g­ton Post. He blamed the “ex­treme right wing” of the Repub­li­can Party for the ma­jor­ity of con­gres­sional dys­func­tion and grid­lock in 2013, but said Democrats also had to take some of the blame for tol­er­at­ing “Repub­li­can ob­struc­tion­ism” for too long and fail­ing to rally enough sup­port to bring about eco­nomic change.

“At a time when the prob­lems fac­ing us are mon­u­men­tal, Congress is dys­func­tional and more and more peo­ple (es­pe­cially the young) are, un­der­stand­ably, giv­ing up on the po­lit­i­cal process,” Mr. San­ders wrote. “The peo­ple are hurt­ing. They look to Wash­ing­ton for help. Noth­ing is hap­pen­ing.”

In­cluded on his 2014 pri­or­i­ties list: ad­dress­ing the large gap in wealth, cre­at­ing jobs, pro­tect­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity, in­creas­ing the min­i­mum wage, ex­pand­ing rights for gays and les­bians, and crack­ing down on sur­veil­lance pro­grams run by the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency.

A spokesman for Mr. San­ders said the se­na­tor plans to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to ad­dress many of th­ese prob­lems when Congress re­turns to Wash­ing­ton this month.

“The work­ing fam­i­lies of this coun­try are hurt­ing and they want mem­bers of Congress to start de­fend­ing their in­ter­ests,” spokesman Michael Briggs said in an email. “When you have the ma­jor­ity leader of the Demo­cratic Party, Harry Reid, talk­ing about the need to ad­dress wealth and in­come in­equal­ity, there is no ques­tion but that an op­por­tu­nity now ex­ists to make some real progress.”

Mr. Man­ley, how­ever, said he didn’t see much op­por­tu­nity for progress or bi­par­ti­san co­op­er­a­tion in Congress in the new year.

“In light of the House and Se­nate Repub­li­cans’ phony de­bates with Oba­macare and, to a lesser de­gree, Beng­hazi, it’s tough to imag­ine much hap­pen­ing on the leg­isla­tive front,” he said. “But I think it’s go­ing to lead to a de­bate that will help the Demo­cratic base in 2014 elec­tions.”

Mr. Man­ley said pro­gres­sives like Mr. San­ders and Ms. War­ren, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, see a space in the po­lit­i­cal de­bate that they’re try­ing to fill given ris­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion in the polls with the tea party. Even GOP House Speaker John A. Boehner seems to have had enough with the far right wing of his cau­cus, speak­ing out in De­cem­ber against the con­ser­va­tive in­ter­est groups who called for the gov­ern­ment shut­down in Oc­to­ber and bashed the bud­get deal be­fore it was even fi­nal­ized.

Lib­er­als be­lieve they can ex­ploit the fact that the tea party move­ment re­mains pow­er­ful within the Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion, but far less pop­u­lar with the gen­eral elec­torate.

“In the past, I’ve un­der­es­ti­mated the stay­ing power of the tea party, but if you look at all the polls, they are wildly un­pop­u­lar across the coun­try, yet they still have a sig­nif­i­cant amount of con­trol over House and Se­nate Repub­li­cans,” Mr. Man­ley said. “But I think that’s chang­ing, and more and more of at least the smart Repub­li­cans un­der­stand that con­tin­u­ing to be so closely aligned with the tea party will be the kiss of death, maybe not in 2014, but in 2016.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS

Pro­gres­sives like Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, see a space in the po­lit­i­cal de­bate that they’re try­ing to fill given ris­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion in the polls with the tea party, says Jim Man­ley, a for­mer aide to Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Harry Reid.

“The peo­ple are hurt­ing. They look to Wash­ing­ton for help. Noth­ing is hap­pen­ing,” Sen. Bernie San­ders, Vermont in­de­pen­dent, wrote in a blog on Huff­in­g­ton Post.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.