Bush's legislative sinkhole

Published July 19, 2004 3:13PM (EDT)

The Los Angeles Times reports today that President Bush's legislative year is his worst yet. "Capitol Hill has turned into a sinkhole for the unfinished business on Bush's agenda, which includes bills to spur domestic energy production, crack down on lawsuits, extend his 2001 tax cuts and liberalize immigration rules.

"Bush and his GOP allies blame the Democrats for the stalemate, as the minority party has become more united and stubborn in its opposition to White House initiatives.

"But many issues, such as highway funding and additional tax cuts, have languished not just because of Democratic obstruction but also because of divisions among Republicans -- between the House and Senate, moderates and conservatives, and Bush and congressional leaders.

"Last week's Senate debate on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was symptomatic of the many forces conspiring to turn this year into a legislative bust for the White House. Despite Bush's strong push for the amendment -- a crowd pleaser for his party's conservative wing -- it met with resounding defeat in the face of solid Democratic opposition and a divided Republican Party.

"For now, Bush can still count on getting a few important but uncontroversial items through Congress in the next few months, including funding for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, a free trade agreement with Australia and a bill to temporarily extend three popular tax breaks that are about to expire.

"But a senior administration official acknowledged that the White House was taking a 'minimalist approach' to its legislative ambitions."

By Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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