The 102nd Congress Strikes Back

I think it’s interesting to note that when you survey the highest-profile achievements of the 111th Congress, what you get is basically fulfillment of the Clinton administration’s two most famous failures with the 102nd Congress. Gay and lesbian soldiers will be allowed to serve openly in the military, and the federal government will commit itself to the construction of a national universal health insurance system.

That’s not all that happened in the 111th Congress, of course, but I think those are the two biggest measures that had (a) really engaged a substantial swathe of the progressive community over time and (b) actually passed the Senate. The measures that fit (a) but not (b) are action on immigration and action on climate change. And my suspicion is that it’s no coincidence. The priorities that Obama had the most success in moving were the priorities that were “older” in terms of their lifespan on the Hill. For climate and immigration it may just take more time. Which is tragic in several respects, but especially so for climate change. Health care reform is important and the sooner the better, but it honestly doesn’t have the same kind of urgency as carbon pricing where delay really makes the overall situation much, much, much harder to deal with.