Well, yesterday marked the official end of the 111th Congress and the unofficial end to the first half of President Obama's first term and there's no denying the amount legislative accomplishments President Obama has had. Besides the Affordable Health Care Act which reformed the health insurance industry, there was Lily Lebetter Fair Pay Act, Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, tobacco regulation, credit card reform, student laon reform, Wall Street reform, the Recover Act which brought us back from the brink of collapse, the new GI Bill, the Food Safety Moderdization Act, James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, the bailout of the auto industr, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the tax cut compromise. That's a rather long list and in fact in the first two years, 85% of the president's agenda for his first term was accomplished. The only problem is, some of the larger bills were watered down compared to the original ideas.
Take for instance the Affordable Health Care Act; when it was first proposed there was the addition of the public option, a way for people to buy health insurance through the government in a larger exchange in an attempt to drive the premiums of other companies. That was soon replaced with lower the Medicare age, which in turn was replaced with the individual mandate. The final bill was a shell of its former self in an attempt to get the Republican votes that never came. To put it in other words, it was like taking a shot of espresso, bold and exciting, and dumping it into a gallon of water. What we have left is something diluted, hard to swallow, and leaves a bad taste in your mouth (I'm sure the people at the Coffee Party would get a kick out of that analogy). The same can be said for the Wall Street reform, in a futile attempt to get Republican support, the bill lost some of its luster by the time it was passed.
And to add insult to injury, at the end of the so-called lame duck session thie week, Congress passed a stop gap spending bill that continues the current spending levels until March since the omnibus bill failed to make it to a vote. What this means is that the funds that would go to start implementing the health care and Wall Street reform won't be there and that reform will be further stalled until the Republicans get a chance to pick it apart and repeal it.
And then there is the tax cut compromise, which I already wrote about earlier, but to reiterate, the president walked back on his promise to let the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% expire by extending them with the rest of the cuts for 2 years. Also there is the estate tax issue and the payroll tax holiday, which starts the inevitable defunding of Social Security.
The 112th Congress will be different as the Republicans have more say and control the House of Representatives. I relunctantly look forward to see what comes out of it.