A Failure to Lead
The Democratic Congress is more interested in acting out than in taking positive action.
BY KARL ROVE
Friday, November 9, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
This week is the one-year anniversary of Democrats winning Congress. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid probably aren't in a celebrating mood. The goodwill they enjoyed after their victory is gone. Their bright campaign promises are unfulfilled. Democratic leadership is in disarray. And Congress's approval rating has fallen to its lowest point in history.
The problems the Democrats are now experiencing begin with the federal budget. Or rather, the lack of one. In 2006, Democrats criticized Congress for dragging its feet on the budget and pledged that they would do better. Instead, they did worse. The new fiscal year started Oct. 1--five weeks ago--but Democrats have yet to send the president a single annual appropriations bill. It's been at least 20 years since Congress has gone this late in passing any appropriation bills, an indication of the mess the Pelosi-Reid Congress is now in.
Even worse, the Democrats have made clear all their talk about "fiscal discipline" is just that--talk. They're proposing to spend $205 billion more than the president has proposed over the next five years. And the opening wedge of this binge is $22 billion more in spending proposed for the coming year. Only in Washington could someone in public life be so clueless to say, as Sen. Reid and Rep. Pelosi have, that $22 billion is a "relatively small" difference.
Let's also be clear about what it means to roll back the president's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, as the Democrats want to do. Every income-tax payer will pay more as all tax rates rise. Families will pay $500 more per child as they lose the child tax credit. Taxes on small businesses would go up by an average of about $4,000. Retirees will pay higher taxes on investment retirement income. And now we have the $1 trillion tax increase proposed as "tax reform" by the Democrats' chief tax writer last month.
Failing to pass a budget, proposing a huge spike in federal spending and offering the biggest tax increase in history are not the only hallmarks of this Democratic Congress.
Beholden to MoveOn.org and other left-wing groups, Democratic leaders have ignored the progress made in Iraq by the surge, diminished the efforts of our military, and wasted precious time with failed attempts to force an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. They continue to try to implement this course, which would lead to chaos in the region, the creation of a possible terror state with the third largest oil reserves in the world, and a major propaganda victory for Osama bin Laden as well as for Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.
After promising on the campaign trail to "support our troops," Democrats tried to cut off funding for our military while our soldiers and Marines are under fire from the enemy. For 19 Senate Democrats, this was simply a bridge too far, so they voted against their own leadership's proposal. Democrats also tried to stuff an emergency war-spending bill with billions of dollars of pork for individual members. Now the party's leaders are stalling an emergency supplemental bill with funding for body armor, bullets and mine-resistant vehicles.
After pledging a "Congress that strongly honors our responsibility to protect our people from terrorism," Democrats have refused to make permanent reforms of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that the Director of National Intelligence said were needed to close "critical gaps in our intelligence capability." Their presidential candidates fell all over each other in a recent debate to pledge an end to the Terrorist Surveillance Program. Then Senate Democratic leaders, thinking there was an opening for political advantage, slow-walked the confirmation of Judge Michael Mukasey to be the next attorney general. It's obvious that this is a man who knows the important role the Justice Department plays in the war on terror. Delaying his confirmation is only making it harder to prosecute the war.
Democrats promised "civility and bipartisanship." Instead, they stiff-armed their Republican colleagues, refused to include them in budget negotiations between the two houses, and have launched more than 400 investigations and made more than 675 requests for documents, interviews or testimony. They refused a bipartisan compromise on an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, instead wasting precious time sending the president a bill they knew he would veto. And they did this knowing that they wouldn't be able to override that veto. Why? Because their pollsters told them putting the children's health-care program at risk would score political points. Instead, it left them looking cynical.
The list of Congress's failures grows each month. No energy bill. No action on health care. No action on the mortgage crisis. No immigration reform. No progress on renewing No Child Left Behind. Precious little action on judges and not enough on reducing trade barriers. Congress has not done its work. And these failures will have consequences.
Democrats had a moment after the 2006 election, but now that moment has passed. They've squandered it. They have demonstrated both the inability and unwillingness to govern. Instead, after more than a decade in the congressional minority, they reflexively look for short-term partisan advantage and attempt to appease the party's most strident fringe. Now that Democrats have the reins of congressional power, their true colors are coming out and the public doesn't like what it sees.
The Democratic victory in 2006 was narrow. They won the House by 85,961 votes out of over 80 million cast and the Senate by a mere 3,562 out of over 62 million cast. A party that wins control by that narrow margin can quickly see its fortunes reversed when it fails to act responsibly, fails to fulfill its promises, and fails to lead.
Mr. Rove is a former adviser to President George W. Bush.