Not that things were going super smoothly before, but the path to turning any of President Bush’s second-term agenda into meaningful change just got a lot harder following yesterday’s election.
Democrats decisively took the House, and are still in the hunt for control of the Senate, with races in Montana and Virginia virtually even as of this morning.
Bush’s domestic agenda, which two years ago placed its emphasis on the lofty goals of overhauling Social Security and achieving real tax reform, sputtered a long time ago. It’s hard to imagine any of those issues returning to the forefront with the debate over the next move in Iraq not looking to be resolved anytime soon.
One interesting side note to the election is that both Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Maryland, and Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, will be retiring from Congress in January. Both will no longer have the pulpit, or the job, that allows them to voice defense for the corporate accounting legislation that bears their names.
Oxley had been particularly loath to make any changes to the legislation, but with Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the most likely to assume control of the House Financial Services Committee from Oxley, it remains to be seen whether the move to roll back some of SOX's provisions for smaller public companies gain traction. In recent weeks, Frank has said he will allow regulators more time and leeway to implement the law's financial controls provision, rather than overhaul the law itself.
But while there’s plenty to speculate about when it comes to politics, one interesting measure I’d been keeping an eye on were two money-raising measures in California -- one looking to tax oil companies in order to promote the production of alternative fuels, while the other wanted to expand health care funding through a tax hike on cigarettes. As of this morning, both looked to be headed for defeat.
My friends who live in the state have mentioned how hard-hit they were for campaigns on both sides of those issues, never mind campaigns for the massive public works bonds that appear to have been approved by the votes.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the oil industry invested at least $94 million lobbying against Proposition 87, which would hit oil companies with billions of dollars in new taxes to promote the production of alternative fuels. Proponents of the proposition included Los Angeles developer and movie producer Stephen Bing, who funneled another $50 million to support the cause, and former President Clinton, who campaigned around the state.
The measure would have set a new standard of accountability for oil companies and were undoubtedly part of a new-look Governor Schwarzenegger wanting to burnish an eco-friendly image in a state where the electorate runs green. It wasn’t that long ago that the pundits were mocking Congress for its plans to furnish taxpayers with a $100 gas refund, but that would have accomplished little to actually address the root of the problem.
Now that election night’s come and gone, I’m waiting to see who delivers on the promises of the campaign. California's proposition might have failed, but I'll be looking to see whether the governor finds other means to incentivize alternative energy. Campaign promises are one thing, but finding a way to deliver on them is quite another. And it remains to be seen what Democrats are able to make of whatever power they've reclaimed in the coming years.
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