Democrats are confident that in the coming weeks they will pass a major new package of financial regulations. And they may be right. But that issue is unique among the looming legislative battles facing the Senate. The public is furious at Wall Street, and opposing these sorts of reforms won’t look good come election time.
But beyond that single agenda item, is there any chance that the Democrats’ newfound post-health care momentum will translate into other legislative achievements? The outlook isn’t so great.“[O]ur people are pretty upset,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told me and a handful of other reporters yesterday afternoon after the Senate cast its final health care vote. “The consequences of doing something this big in such a partisan, sleazy way–those consequences are real.”
The assessment is telling coming from Graham, who’s a leading Republican negotiator of a bipartisan climate and energy compromise. Whether you agree with his characterization or not, the implication is clear: Republicans will block the Democratic agenda out of pique–which isn’t so different from the Republicans’ pre-health care strategy, but indicates that a turning political tide won’t unmoor the GOP.
“Immigration is not going to happen in the Senate,” Graham said. “There is no desire to do immigration in the United States Senate in 2010.”
And it’s not just him.
As the health care fight entered its last days, other GOP senators said they and their colleagues might well sit out the rest of 2010.
“There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in a radio interview Monday. “They have poisoned the well in what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.”
And Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)–a moderate who has voted with Democrats in the past–said the Dem health care victory “creates a very difficult environment” with respect to passing other major legislation.
And, lo and behold, the same day the health care debate came to an end, the GOP decided to block an extension of unemployment benefits on the Senate floor.
Of course, the post-health care political landscape is still taking shape, and the statements members make in the immediate aftermath of a bruising defeat aren’t always reliable indicators of future actions. But there’s no sign that health care has eased the gridlock on the Hill.