Procedural Creativity

In response to my contention that “In the face of an opposition that’s been relentlessly innovative, the White House has been staggeringly uncreative,” Kevin Drum cites the point that many George W Bush domestic initiatives involved compromising with Democrats (No Child Left Behind) or else he was able to do without relying on Democratic votes.

I don’t disagree with that. But I don’t think it speaks to the point about innovation and creativity. Throughout the Bush years, Senate Democrats were relatively restrained about using counter-majoritarian methods to obstruct initiatives. They didn’t throw hissy fits about the use of reconciliation to pass tax cuts, even though reconciliation was really supposed to be used for deficit reduction. They didn’t filibuster the 2003 Medicare reform bill, even though they had the votes to do so. When they lost seats in 2002, they let Bush get his way on labor rules for the Department of Homeland Security. And the exceptions tended to prove the rule. They really did go beyond what had previously been done in terms of filibustering circuit court nominees. But Republicans responded to this innovation with innovation of the “nuclear option” and got Democrats to partially back down. And that, I think, was the general story of the Bush years. The president by no means got his way on everything. But Democrats at times didn’t use obstruction tactics that they could have used, and when Democrats tried to deploy new means of obstruction Republicans tried to push back. Under Obama, by contrast, Democrats have spent a fair amount of time whining about GOP obstruction but don’t seem to be able to come up with anything to do about it.