December 14, 2014


The Center Won Thursday Night. Can It Win Again in the 114th Congress? : Despite griping from left and right, the odd coalition that passed the omnibus bill could form again next year to tackle tough challenges. (DANIEL NEWHAUSER AND SARAH MIMMS, 12/12/14, National Journal)

As messy and uncertain as Thursday's nail-biting vote to keep the government running was, amid a push for confrontation from the farthest ideological ends of both parties, a dynamic formed that could be the key to legislative success in the 114th Congress: The center prevailed.

As Sen. Ted Cruz and House conservatives demanded Republicans challenge the president over immigration and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Elizabeth Warren insisted Democrats stand firm against Wall Street and big money, an odd coalition formed in the middle to pass a sweeping appropriations bill no one loved, but everyone recognized must pass.

In other words, Congress legislated. [...]

This time, Obama and Boehner were whipping votes on the same side of the issue, teaming with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and an assortment of other strange bedfellows to herald the spending bill to ultimate passage.

"Tonight, working across the aisle collaboratively, against the fringes--well, excuse me, the more vocal, more ideological wings of our party--is good for both parties," Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly said after the vote. "That is a welcome message for voters. They want to see that, and we don't lose a thing."

The omnibus spending bill now heads to the Senate, where a similar coalition of the willing waits to pass it. Reid, who long ago undercut Pelosi's strategy on the omnibus, will be joined by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in whipping members in favor of the bill, while senators as diverse as Patrick Leahy and Lindsey Graham are pushing their colleagues to support the omnibus as well.

As in the House, liberal Senate Democrats like Sens. Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Bernie Sanders have united against the bill, putting themselves in the same camp as Sens. Cruz, Tom Coburn, and Mike Lee--though for decidedly different reasons. But the measure will need just 60 votes to move through the Senate and even Coburn has said he'll allow the omnibus to move forward. The majority of Senate Democrats who, like Warren, opposed the bill's Dodd-Frank provision resigned themselves to the fact that if the House wasn't able to do anything about it, neither would they.

At best, those on the far left and the far right can delay the spending bill, but a vote is inevitable and it appears clear that the middle majority will pass it.

The next two years will not be easy for either party and Congress will be called upon numerous times to approve vital legislation on a deadline. McConnell and Boehner recognize that although they will both control majorities beginning next month, there's still a Democrat in the White House. They won't be able to ignore the other party if they hope to get anything of real substance done over the next two years.

This is what McConnell has been talking about: returning to regular order and allowing the committees to do their work. The only reason that the omnibus was able to pass the House, and is likely to pass the Senate, is that it is a carefully crafted compromise bill. Appropriators, both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, spent months haggling over every last detail before presenting the package to members. The final omnibus bill has the fingerprints of not just a few members of leadership, but dozens of members from all sides of the political spectrum.

Posted by at December 14, 2014 8:57 AM

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