Midterm results could quell Obama’s agenda

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With Republicans gaining 60 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, President Obama now faces the prospect that his agenda initiatives on passing Card Check, Illegal Immigration reform and Cap and Trade may be dead in the water.

There is even the possibility that his signature Healthcare legislation could be rolled back, or defunded.  John Boehner, R-Ohio, who will take over as Speaker of the House in January, said his priority is repealing Obamacare.

Obama
PRESIDENT OBAMA

However, the first priority of the lame-duck session will be extending the Bush-era tax rates. Outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi prevented a vote on the issue last month.  The lower marginal rates, and increases in the child tax exemption and the Earned Income Tax Credit expire at the end of the year.  President Obama said he is willing to negotiate.

In post-election polling from Edison Research, 48 percent of voters favor repeal of the Healthcare law compared to 44 who supported it. The President said he would be willing to make changes “in the margins,” but would certainly veto any repeal if such a measure could even make it through the Democrat-controlled Senate.

A significant difference compared with the 2006 midterm involved seniors. They broke 60-40 for Republicans. Four years ago, it was an even split.

Not surprisingly, the economy was the major issue for voters. Though most conceded the administration inherited the recession, more appeared to blame Democrats for the lack of recovery, leading to what President Obama called “a shellacking.”

In addition to the House losses, Democrats lost five Senate seats, including the president’s former seat in Illinois.

In the House, support for the Healthcare legislation and Cap and Trade decimated centrist blue-dog Democrats—every one who voted for the Waxman-Markey bill lost. U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, a blue-dog who voted against both initiatives won a narrow victory over newcomer attorney Keith Rothfus.

Altmire said he is willing to work with the new Republican majority to reduce government spending.

“There don’t have a lot of specifics about how they want to do that, but I think we can find a lot of common ground,” he said.

Terry Madonna Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College said U.S. Rep. Joe Sestack D-Media, lost the Senate race to former congressman Pat Toomey because it was a referendum on President Obama’s policies.

He told the League of Women voters it was “an ideological dog fight between a pro-Obama Democrat and someone who doesn’t support a single element in the Obama agenda.”

Jerry Shuster, political communications professor at the University of Pittsburgh said running to the left of Arlen Specter on abortion and gun rights issues in the primary made it impossible for Sestak to recapture moderate Demo­crats and Independents who went for Toomey.

“Former state Democratic Chairman T. J.  Rooney said Sestak never merged his campaign with the Democratic machinery after defeating Specter, the network of people who manned phone banks, knocked on doors and got out the Democratic vote for years.

“You do that long enough, in enough places and on the margins, it begins to add up,” he said.

In the larger picture, the Nov. 2 results could be damaging to President Obama’s 2012 re-election bid. Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, all critical swing states, were all states he won in 2008.

In 2012, Pennsylvania will have a Republican governor, U.S. senator and Republican majorities in both houses. In Ohio, Republicans grabbed five congressional seats, a Senate seat and every statewide office including governor.  In Florida, Republicans earned a clean sweep. Taking a Senate seat, two congressional races, and every state race including governor and attorney general.

Congressional redistricting, based on the recent census, will also be controlled by Republicans.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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