Obama said wednesday that he is willing to go along

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Unformatted text preview: the financial crisis has actually given the White House more momentum to get it all done. But history tells a different story. Congress has its own code, and cracking that code usually means taking into account five different factors. These five factors are: Money: It may seem trite, but the biggest factor in determining the size and scope of a legislative agenda is how much money -- and more importantly, the perception of how much money -- is available for the government to use. Bill Clinton's legislative agenda was necessarily limited because his budget constraints made it difficult to spend money on big things. George Bush, who inherited a fairly large budget surplus, had money to burn, which allowed him to pass a prescription drug benefit. President Obama has no money, which means that if he wants to pass a big new entitlement like a health care public option, he will have to make the Congress take the painful step of raising a lot of taxes. Time: The legislative calendar is simply not that long. A new administration has a little less than a year to pass its big-ticket items, mostly because it is very hard to get major initiatives done in an election year. Take away the three months it takes to hire key staff, a couple of months for the various congressional recesses, and you have about six months to really legislate. Since Congress is supposed to use some time to pass its annual spending bills (there are 12 that need to be passed each year, not counting supplemental spending bills), time for big initiatives is actually very limited. Each day the president takes time to travel overseas or to throw out the first pitch at an All Star game, he is taking time away from making contacts with legislators whose support is crucial for the president's agenda. Time is not a limitless resource on Capitol Hill. Political capital: A president enters office with the highest popularity ratings he will ever get (barring a war or some other calamity that brings the country together), which is why most presidents try to pass as much as possible as early as possible in their administrations. The most famous example of that was Franklin Roosevelt's Hundred Days. But there are other examples. Ronald Reagan moved his agenda very early in his administration, George Bush passed his tax proposals and the No Child Left Behind law very early in his White House. They understood the principle that it is important to strike while the iron is hot. President Bush famously misunderstood this principle when he said that he was going to use the "political capital" gained in his re-election to pass Social Security reform. What he failed to [CARD CONTINUES] Gonzaga Debate Institute 2011 216 Mercury Politics Internal Link – Political Capital (4/4) [CARD CONTINUED, NO TEXT REMOVED] understand was that as soon as he won re-election, he was a lame duck in the eyes of the Congress, and he had no political capital. President Obama believes he has a lot of political capital, and perhaps he does. But each day he is in office, his political capital reserve is declining. And each time he goes to the well to pass things like "cap and trade" makes it more difficult for him to pass his more important priorities like health care. Focus: Congress can walk and chew gum at the same time. But focus is essential to achieving results. President...
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