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Sunday, April 13, 2014

The best way to "put points on the board" is to put Republicans on the defensive

by David Atkins

John Podesta and President Obama are apparently concerned about "putting points on the board" in terms of legislation and executive orders:
White House senior adviser John Podesta is running against the clock.

Time is winding on Podesta’s objective, which is to make sure President Obama put points on the board in the final three years of his second term through either legislation or executive action.

With Obama and the White House flailing in late 2013, Podesta returned to the West Wing in January as part of an Obama reboot. 
A little more than three months later, the former chief of staff for President Clinton gets good marks from Democrats and fellow West Wingers for helping to improve the White House’s strategy and communications.

They say Podesta has improved the White House’s chances of moving meaningful regulatory actions through the government while better coordinating with Democrats in Congress.

“Lawmakers feel more engaged now,” said one former senior administration official, who called Podesta a “hell of a supplement” to the White House legislative affairs office.

A senior Democratic aide who had grumbled about relations with the White House in previous months, said it has been “a lot better than before” under Podesta.
With all respect, the current Republican House is quite possibly the most intransigent in all of American history. It is also, not coincidentally, among the most ideologically extreme in American history.

That means that the chances the passing meaningful legislation are near zero. It also means that any remotely controversial legislation that does manage to get passed is likely to be only marginally beneficial to the American people, if not actively harmful.

In an environment where nothing good can get passed through Congress, the only legislative tool left in the arsenal is to shame the opposition until they either give in or lose the next election. Rather than attempt to figure out what good bills have a larger-than-zero chance of passing the House, the President should simply work alongside the Democratic Senate to craft good, popular bills and dare the House to reject them and refuse to bring them to a vote.

That was essentially the strategy with equal pay, and it can work for a variety of other issues as well. The Democrats should engage in a full court press on issue after issue, from student loans to jobs programs to income inequality to tax fairness to immigration to climate change to voting rights to campaign finance and anything and everything in between. Rack up issue after issue after issue on which Americans agree with Democrats and hammer Republicans for refusing to hold votes on them until the cows come home.

Frankly, if Democrats lose the Senate in 2014 and cannot make gains in the House then Obama is already a lame duck President. He might as well do everything in his power to make life miserable for Republicans and maximize Democrats' electoral chances in 2014.