Dem infighting risks inaction on labor, global warming bills

Nick Juliano | The Raw Story

Democrats have expanded their majorities in Congress and are inching towards a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate, but marshaling lock-step unity has never been a strong point for party leaders, raising the prospects that infighting among Democratic factions could slow or derail key legislation.

Politico outlined some of the key areas where Democrats are divided.

Unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can whip their caucuses into unity, numerous fault lines will be revealed: Southern Democrats vs. Northern liberals on labor law; California greens vs. Rust Belt Democrats on global warming; socialized medicine adherents vs. go-slow health care reformers; anti-war liberals vs. cautious centrists on national security. And don’t forget the anti-bailout crowd vs. the powerful Michigan Democrats in both chambers when it comes to money for Detroit.

The disagreements between different Democratic factions became clear as soon as the election ended, when Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) launched his ultimately successful coup to take over the chairmanship of the Energy & Commerce Committee, unseating Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), the longest-serving current member of the House.

Waxman, a friend to environmentalists and progressives, will be well positioned to shepherd through the House dramatic overhauls to US energy and healthcare policy as chairman of the powerful committee. Some Midwestern Democrats saw the ouster of Dingell as a snub to the interests of their manufacturing-heavy and economically depressed states.

The bigger struggle will come in the Senate, where some moderate Democrats oppose dramatic action on global warming and hence may not help the party garner 60 votes.

Republicans, for their part, are ready to sit back and enjoy the Democrats’ struggles.

“When you’re playing with live ammunition and you have to actually live with the consequences of the policy, it’s much, much tougher,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-OH) told Politico. “Do Democrats really want to hamstring U.S. manufacturers with new climate change regulations in the current economic climate?”

To be sure, President-elect Barack Obama has indicated that finding pragmatic solutions is among his top priorities. And, the Democrats certainly find themselves better off disagreeing amongst themselves than they were for the last eight years, where most proposals couldn’t get off the ground because of assured vetoes from President Bush.

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