- Obama’s regulatory agenda will cost U.S. economy $143B next year: report
- Patriot Act author on James Clapper: Fire, prosecute him
- Russia P.M. Medvedev: No amnesty for political prisoners
- Michigan GOP Senate hopeful reminds government is the ‘servant’
- Christmas, by Congress: Members mull a 15-cent tax on trees
- U.S. unemployment falls to five-year low of 7 percent; 203K jobs added
- World mourns Nelson Mandela and celebrates his life; burial set for Dec. 15
- Bill O’Reilly reminds: Nelson Mandela ‘was a communist’
- John Boehner says GOP should support gay candidates: ‘I do’
- Grass-Whopper: Pan-fried cricket burgers go over big in New York City
Obama’s new role: Compromiser-in-Chief
Question of the Day
To move his agenda through Congress quickly, President Obama plans to embrace his campaign motto from last year — change — but not in the way he intended.
As a candidate, Mr. Obama promised to bring change to Washington. As president, he is learning he must accept alterations to his proposals in order to succeed — to become, in effect, compromiser-in-chief.
The process is already under way.
The climate change legislation that passed the House last month was a shadow of Mr. Obama’s original formulation. Billions of dollars that he had intended to go to middle-class tax cuts went instead to utilities and farmers as part of a compromise that secured the votes of pro-business Democrats.
The health care debate has also been rife with give-and-take. Mr. Obama wants government to provide a public health insurance plan, but leading congressional proposals omit or downplay the option. The president would also prefer not to raise taxes to pay for health care reform, but senior lawmakers say he might have no choice and are floating tax hike plans for upper-income individuals and corporations.
Mr. Obama and his aides have made clear that they are open to almost any alternative as long as certain principles are respected. The president pushed for the House-passed climate bill despite its many differences with his own proposal. On health care, he has left most of the details to Capitol Hill.
“We haven’t drawn a lot of bright lines,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said of the health care bill. “We’re letting Congress work many of these issues through.”
Such flexibility is not new from a White House. In fact, Mr. Obama would have brought major change to Washington if he insisted on keeping his proposals intact. Some of the most successful recent presidents, including Ronald Reagan, offered bold ideas initially and then accepted less in the end.
Mr. Reagan wanted deeper tax reductions than he ultimately got in the Tax Reform Act of 1986, but he managed to sign the historic income tax overhaul into law.
Some of the biggest presidential failures, by contrast, have come when chief executives insisted too stridently that their own plans needed to pass. A famous example was the death of President Clinton’s health care plan two decades ago.
But presidents who are willing to alter their proposals significantly also risk losing the support of their electoral base. George H.W. Bush promised “no new taxes” during his 1988 campaign. Later, as president, he accepted a tax increase as part of a budget compromise and alienated enough of his core backers to lose re-election in 1992.
President Obama is facing a similar balancing act.
Democratic leaders had to wheel and deal to pass the climate bill in the House last month. But the compromises angered environmentalist groups that are among the Democrats’ biggest backers. This week, the Natural Resources Defense Council broke with the congressional leaders and pressed the Senate to mandate that carbon dioxide emissions be cut by 20 percent by 2020, up from the 17 percent reduction target in the House-passed bill that they deemed too timid.
Health care reform presents an even larger challenge for the president.
About the Author
Jeffrey H. Birnbaum is a Washington Times columnist, a Fox News contributor and president of BGR Public Relations. His firm represents a variety of corporations.
- Bill OReilly reminds: Nelson Mandela was a communist
- Spike in battlefield deaths linked to restrictive rules of engagement
- Activists urge Obama to go rogue, sidestep Congress
- 'Hunger Games' delivers Obama's message on income inequality
- Rush Limbaugh: Obama trying to make Mandela death about himself
- PRUDEN: British press horrified as London's new mayor dares to proclaim the truth
- Kill team: Obama war chiefs widen drone death zones
- Colorado judge: Bakery owner discriminated against gay couple
- Sen. Rand Paul pushes 'Economic Freedom Zones' for Detroit
- Obama administration issues permits for wind farms to kill more eagles
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
The Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses. And how to get from here to there.
Why can’t humans just be free to be humans?
Get in the middle of all the action inside and outside the boxing ring.
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
White House pets gone wild!