I wondered how long it would take for Democrats to openly break with the President. Apparently it took just over a month from a midterm shellacking the party may not recover from for a decade. I speak of the debate over the Cromnibus which amusingly pitted conservatives and progressives together in an effort to kill the bill. Of course, each side had different reasons for doing so.
Conservatives hated the bill because they saw it as giving Obama full funding for the rest of the year and not opposing Obama’s Executive Order on immigration. Buried in the Cromnibus’s 1000+ pages are a smorgasbord of things conservatives dislike; chief among them Obamacare funding. Progressives wanted the bill to die for largely two reasons. The first, it roll back provisions in the Dodd-Frank reform package of 2010 regarding risky derivative language. The second, something Harry Reid actually suggested, was to massively increase the donation limit of individuals to state parties to a whopping $1.5 million per election cycle.
Both Republican and Senate Democratic leadership were fully on board with the final package. The White House weighed in on Wednesday that it supported the package. Ultimately, what you had were John Boehner and Barack Obama both whipping votes for the package. Of course this does not mean House Democrats were on board with the package.
Thursday afternoon House Republicans put on the floor a vote on the rules that would govern debate on the Cromnibus. Not a single Democrat voted for the rule, John Boehner actually had to vote for it for it to pass (unusual) and the vote had to be held up for ten minutes so two more GOP votes could be found to pass the bill. Some of the House Democrats that voted against the rule did vote for final package but it is telling they would openly defy the President’s wish the bill be passed quickly.
Nancy Pelosi actually announced her opposition to the bill when Josh Earnest was delivering the daily WH Press Conference. Though she did not whip her members to oppose the bill it was clear her opposition made a large number of her Caucus voice displeasure with the legislation as well.
Now the drama shifts to the Senate where several members of the Democratic Caucus are openly vowing to oppose the budget bill. Progressive firebrand Elizabeth Warren, an arch enemy of Wall-Street, is calling the bill a “sham” and will oppose it. Whether she holds it up remains to be seen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), arguably in a run-up for President is also opposed to the bill. And the problem Boehner ran into in the House is likely to show up in the Senate as well as several Republicans have voiced displeasure for the bill.
But while Republicans have largely been seen as the party that is divided it is becoming clear that Democrats have their own internal schisms to deal with. Their caucus, liberal now but even more so in the 114th Congress, will adhere more to the Warren side of progressivism than the Obama or Clinton side. Further, after two massive midterm defeats many of these Senators and let’s not forget the House will feel like they can break from the President. To a degree.
The President is still the most visible face of their party and spiting him on everything would make the party look weak and disorganized with a Presidential election in less than two years. Unfortunately, much as the Tea Party’s adherence to ideology has confounded GOP electoral warnings the same may be true of the Left’s progressive faction. Yet, even among Democrat’s progressive faction there is a split.
Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean endorsed Clinton for President. Yet, the very organization he founded, on the same day of the Dean endorsement sent out a fundraiser to supporters to help with a “Draft Warren” movement. The move, even it is unsuccessful, reflects that the Democratic Party may find itself facing a GOP 2012 moment where the party’s candidate, Mitt Romney, struggled to unite and appease his party’s various wings. Clinton could suffer the same fate. This does not necessarily reflect on Obama. It is more of a reflection on Democratic ideology and how the party has moved further left just as the GOP has moved further right under the President.
As it stands, it looks like the post-Obama Democratic feud will be fought over the next decade (if Clinton runs and wins). This would upset the conventional wisdom of partisanship in DC. Conservatives in control of Congress might often unite with progressives to kill bills they oppose or stall Presidential actions. Establishment Democrats and Republicans might be forced to unite in support of pieces of legislation they loathe. This would mask the ideological differences between the parties but they would definitely still be there.
Republicans have their issues to hammer out but so do Democrats. It is becoming increasingly clear that Democrats have yet to figure out the party they are or will be in the post-Obama era. If the Cromnibus drama is any indication the Democratic family feud is going to be anything but civil.