- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

President Bush is nearing the end of his first year in office with an extraordinary record of legislative accomplishments to his credit.
Indeed, his victories on Capitol Hill are nothing short of a miracle for someone who lost the popular vote in a disputed election, who had no real mandate to speak of, and who saw his party lose majority control of the Senate barely four months into his term.
While Mr. Bush did not get everything he wanted, his legislative scorecard shows he passed the bulk of his campaign agenda, overcoming lower expectations and every obstacle that his opponents could throw in his way.
Consider this: Congress has given Mr. Bush his across-the-board tax cuts, totaling $1.3 trillion over 10 years, a bipartisan education reform bill, all of the $8.3 billion he wanted for anti-missile defense, and higher military spending for pay, benefits and improved readiness.
Tax cuts, missile defense, education reform and a beefed-up military were among the biggest proposals on his agenda, and he has bagged all four.
"You really have to say that on the legislative front, those are tremendous achievements, which are quite remarkable when you think the Congress is evenly divided, and there was no great mandate for his agenda," said Marshall Wittmann, policy analyst for the Hudson Institute here.
"And you have to view this in terms of the truncated legislative schedule because everything became frozen in place after September 11," he told me.
Even those who do not support the president's agenda are praising his success. "I think he's done quite well. I'd give him a B, if not a B-plus," said Robert Reischauer, president of the liberal Urban Institute. "I disagree with much of what he's trying to do. But for all the expectations, which were very limited, the administration should be quite pleased with itself."
There were disappointments and failures, but even here he can point to unexpected advances late in the session that will most likely lead to victories early next year.
Mr. Bush did not get all he had sought in his education plan, especially his school-voucher proposal to get inner-city kids out of failing schools. And he had to agree to more spending than he wanted to buy off Senate Democrats. But he got the periodic testing he proposed to identify problem schools and to raise student achievement, and thus he inoculated himself from future attacks on a traditionally Democratic issue.
He did not get his faith-based grants for religious institutions that help the needy, which was picked apart by Republicans and Democrats alike earlier this year. But White House officials tell me he is getting much of what he wanted anyway by encouraging departments and agencies to approve grant requests from faith-based groups running social welfare programs.
Throughout this year's legislative wars, the House has been Mr. Bush's safety valve, passing administration bills that were not going anywhere under the tyranny of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. After Mr. Daschle took control, Republican legislation required 60 votes for passage to break Democratic filibusters, instead of a simple constitutional majority.
Even when Mr. Bush's bills were approved by Democratic-controlled Senate committees, Mr. Daschle blocked or killed those, too.
Energy legislation, which had passed the House, was poised to clear the Senate Energy Committee earlier this year, with a growing number of Democrats supporting the president's proposal to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That's when Mr. Daschle yanked it out of committee, making sure that it would never see the light of day.
Mr. Daschle used similar blocking tactics on the trade bill that Bush is seeking as part of his critically important economic-growth agenda. The Senate Finance Committee reported out a bipartisan fast-track trade negotiating authority measure this month. But Mr. Daschle bluntly informed the White House that it would not be taken up this year, even though the House has approved a trade expansion bill of its own.
In the meantime, emerging trading markets are being captured by our global competitors, hurting American farmers and manufacturers, and national security is further compromised by our dependence on foreign oil from Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Still, political pressure is building behind both energy independence and trade expansion, and there is a very good chance the votes will be there to tack both measures onto some appropriate legislation early next year.
There were longer-term proposals on Mr. Bush's agenda, but they were never on this year's must-do-now list. The president's Social Security reform commission's report will be thoroughly debated in the 2002 midterm campaign and taken up in 2003.
Clearly, his bitterest defeat was the stimulus bill he proposed to overcome the savage blow that the economy suffered from the September 11 attacks.
Mr. Daschle flatly refused last week to take up the House's modified recovery bill, which would have won a narrow vote in the Senate, saying it had to first win a two-thirds majority of the Democratic caucus before he would bring it up for a vote. Thus, in another political abuse of his parliamentary authority, he gave his party's most liberal lawmakers veto power over the right of the Senate to consider legislation.
But for now, I think it is fair to say the pundits in this town were spectacularly wrong when they confidently predicted in January that Mr. Bush was going to have a hard time getting his agenda through Congress.
He not only exceeded all of their expectations, he did it with flying colors.

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent for The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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