Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Why Steny Hoyer wanted to Avoid a Recess

For years there has been a great deal of division between Republicans and Democrats, at least in style, if not substance. However, there is one area of general agreement between both parties and that is their love for the summer recess.

The summer recesses are valuable and important for several reasons. When I worked for Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-NH), he use to remind his staff that was a very important time for them to determine if Members of Congress were heading in the right direction by hearing the concerns of constituents. Furthermore, when Congress isn't meeting, taxpayers can breathe a little easier because the fear of new spending takes a momentary rest. Some members simply go on vacation, but the vast majority work on the reelection efforts. This has been the way the Congress has conducted itself for decades.

Therefore, it came as a little bit of a surprise when House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that he thought that Congress should not adjourn until it passed "urgently needed" health care reform. What was pitched as something that needed to be done immediately is increasingly looking like something that must be avoided. That "something" was the wrath of voters who feel as though the Obama Administration and its accomplices in the Congress are simply going much too far, much too fast in their aggressive legislative agenda. Congressman Hoyer and other Democrats who were in stronger positions in the next election cycle knew that vulnerable members might have a difficult time sticking to their guns. Keeping them away from their constituents added hope to the Obama team.

Ironically, Harry Reid, the Democrats leader in the Senate has had an agenda of his own. He immediately dismissed the idea of skipping the recess because he wanted his colleagues -- particularly the vulnerable ones -- to be fully aware of public sentiment. He didn't want to disrupt the Obama Express on his own, after all, as a leader in the party it is his job to get these bills passed. But Reid is among the vulnerable. His approval numbers are the lowest since he began his service in the Senate and he faces reelection in just over a year in 2010. I believe he wants his colleagues to stand with him to, at least, slow down the Obama agenda, if not obstruct it.

How bad is it? Several Democrats are avoiding Town Hall meetings altogether. Others are choosing decidedly safe places like predominantly minority churches and organizations. Barack Obama has given marching orders to his activist friends to overwhelm these events and demand that Congress support the President's health care agenda. This could get very tense when they face grass root activists of the Tea Party variety. Still others are facing some very tough questions from voters, including Steny Hoyer when he went to upstate New York to help his colleague, Michael Arcuri. At this event they faced a very angry mob, with one voter pointing out that the President put more time into the purchase of a dog than what he is giving the Congress in deliberating on socialized medicine.

Hoyer has read the "tea leaves" quite well on the situation facing members and I believe the cold shower on the Obama agenda should be significant. That is, at least, until the days between the 2010 election and the Congress that follows it. As a betting man, I believe those lame duck Democrats will do in defeat as they say goodbye, what they cannot do while style fighting for their political lives.
Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business, the longest running show on AM 650 (M-F at 11 am) in Houston, Texas and on AOL Radio. His articles often appear in Chicago Sun Times, Reuters, USA Today, and other national media. Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal calls Price the “best business talk show host in the country.” Find out why and visit his blog at www.BizPlusBlog.com and his show site at www.PriceofBusiness.com. You can also find Price on Strategy Room at FoxNews.com.

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Anonymous Dave Smith said...

Kevin, great analysis. I think a few members of Congress are certainly going to get an earful, particularly those "conservative" Dems recruited by Rahm Emmanuel during the 2006 election cycle. Perhaps we can snap Harry Reid the same way we did Daschle back in '04.

11:42 PM  

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