Again, to quote Evita, “What happens now? Where are we going to?” These seem to be some of the most relevant questions when thinking about where America will be headed in the immediate future.
I have already stated that I think Speaker Pelosi will need to move a couple steps right. Similarly, I think we have already begun to see Bush move ever-so-slightly toward the center with the acceptance of Rumsfeld’s resignation. While I certainly question whether we will see more of Pelosi’s spirit of bipartisanship, I remain skeptical that we will see much from Bush.
What we will see from Bush will be Vetoes. Lots and lots of lefty legislation will get the Presidential axe. To date, President Bush has only vetoed one piece of legislation (regarding stem cell research). Certainly a Democratically led Congress will pass more legislation that is not in keeping with the President’s views than the Republican led Congress did. If so, we should expect the President to be more willing to pull out the Veto pen than in years past.
The House of Reps will remain a wild and rambunctious chamber of politicians clamoring to push reactionary legislation to whatever happened to hit headlines that day. The conservatives will continue to push for a constitutional ban on Gay marriage while the liberals will continue to push for the US to leave Iraq. The real difference will be in what gets heard above the noise. Speaker Pelosi will control the floor schedule and will appoint the new committee chairs. The Democrats will decide what issues get significant floor time. Undoubtedly the Iraq War and other military reforms will take center stage while socially conservative issues will be quieted.
This does not mean, however, that things are going to be any better for Gay people. While the Federal Marriage Amendment is now off the table for the moment (thankfully), this opens too wide a door for the left to grandstand on the very same issue: Gay Marriage. I have said it before, and I will say it again. Gay Marriage isn’t going to help us any. We already know that any pro-Gay Marriage legislation that makes it out of Congress is almost certainly going to be Vetoed by President Bush. Further, few bills from the House make it through the Senate.
Which brings me to the more reasonable of the two houses of Congress, the Senate. The Senate has a well-earned reputation for being the place where legislation goes to die. That house tends to be much more moderate and well-regulated. Few reactionary bills get serious consideration in the Senate.
I sincerely doubt that we will see much change as a result of the shakeup in the Senate. The newly elected Democratic leaders tend to be on the moderate side, and often as conservative as their Republican counterparts. The partisan leadership of the Senate is less important than the leadership of the House because the rules of the Senate are largely traditional and based on seniority rather than party affiliation. Further, the presiding member of the Senate will remain Vice-President Dick Cheney who gets to cast tie-breaking votes. Also, this moderate house is further moderated by the close political division: the Senate is nearly divided equally in half by party.
So, in terms of where we are headed, expect little change other than President Bush getting to exercise his Veto power a little more frequently. Certainly, he will have to fight harder to continue the status quo. The prevailing political winds are calling for a change of direction. Expect Democrats to interpret this as a complete reversal of Bush policies. I remain hopeful that Pelosi will keep her word and remain level-headed, bipartisan, and fair. If not, the Senate will continue to moderate legislation.