The recapture of Congress by the Republican Party is going to pave the way for President George W. Bush to achieve many of his goals, according to a Temple political science professor.
The GOP has won at least 51 seats in the Senate, cementing their control over the legislative branch.
The Democrat-controlled Senate blocked many of Bush’s top priorities, including judicial appointments and permanent tax cuts.
“Most important [to Bush] is getting through conservative judicial appointments,” said the chair of Temple’s political science department, Joseph Schwartz.
Blocked judicial appointments have been common during both the Bush and Clinton Administrations.
After the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, they blocked many judicial appointments that they considered too liberal.
After the Democrats took control of the Senate in 2001 when Jim Jeffords dropped out of the GOP, they returned the favor by blocking Bush’s appointees.
The partisan bickering over court appointments has left many vacancies in the federal court system, which may now be filled at a faster rate.
Although the Democrats could filibuster the appointments, the Republicans could accuse them of being obstructionist if they did so.
“We need to have a budget, to begin with. We need pension reform, welfare reform. We need to do more in education,” said the current Republican Senate minority leader and likely new majority leader Trent Lott.
“Let’s quit talking about doing something for low-income elderly that need prescription drugs. Let’s look at what we can do to target some tax cuts that would help the economy. Let’s have fiscal restraint.”
Schwartz said that the Democratic Party lost out in the Senate because they failed to present a coherent national platform.
“[The Democrat’s] only hope was to make the election a referendum on national economic policy,” he said, “The Democratic leadership took foreign policy and economic policy off the table.”
He added that the Democrats “overestimated how much middle and working class people think that Bush’s tax cuts benefit them.”
“Forty percent of the tax cuts go to the wealthiest one percent,” said Schwartz.
Making permanent tax cuts is also high on Bush’s agenda.
The cuts are currently in effect only for ten years.
There is also “tremendous pressure to eliminate the capital gains and estate taxes,” Schwartz said.
Bush may also have a freer hand in foreign policy now that his party controls Congress.
Without an effective Democratic resistance, Bush may have a better opportunity to pursue a unilateral foreign policy.
Although Democrats had already proved their willingness to go along with a war on Iraq, the resolution giving Bush the authority to do so was passed a month before the elections.
Many Democratic senators supported the bill because voting against it could be turned into an election issue by their challengers.
The biggest blows may be to Democratic Senate majority leader Tom Daschle and House minority leader Richard Gephardt.
Both men are looking towards a run for president in 2004, and the loss of Democrat-held seats in both houses may weaken their messages as they head into the jostling for candidate position that will begin taking place next year.
Brian White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org