Obama and the Democrats End 2010 On a Good Note
Just a couple months ago, President Obama seemed forlorn as he admitted that his party had been “shellacked” in the midterm elections. But now he and the Democrats are enjoying sudden success during Congress’ lame-duck session, as both his tax cut compromise with Republicans and a repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy were passed.
The extension of the Bush-Era Tax Cuts represents more of a political success than anything else. Democrats were originally opposed to the deal that Obama struck with Republicans, which included extending tax cuts for wealthier households as well as for working-class families. They believed that Obama had caved on his campaign promises and his own principles.
“I don’t think it’s a fair deal,” Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) said after it was announced in early December. “I think a ransom was paid, and it was a very high price.”
Despite the Democrats’ initial dissatisfaction, though, the compromise was passed by Congress and won the majority of votes in both parties. More groundbreaking than the tax cut legislation was the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the 17-year old policy that allowed gays to serve in the military as long as they kept their homosexuality under wraps. Since the legislation was passed in 1993, more than 12,500 service members were discharged for being openly homosexual, according to The New York Times. Congress finally revoked this injustice with a vote of 65 to 31 in the Senate; eight Republicans voted with the Democrats.
“I don’t care who you love,” said Senator Ron Wyden (D- OR). “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.” The reversal of this long-debated military policy is already being described by the media and news commentators as “historic,” and has given Obama yet another success to be proud of in the wake of the embarrassing midterm elections. The House also passed a less contentious measure that would increase the amount of money spent on child nutrition and allow more poor children to receive free meals at school.
“Suddenly, [Obama] looks like a dealmaker who can reach across party lines to get things done, and, perhaps, make progress that Americans found lacking when they went to the polls in November,” said one L.A. Times article.
Such was the media’s attitude towards Obama in recent days—he seems to have redeemed himself. The ultra-productive lame-duck session was rounded off when the Senate approved a new start arms control treaty on December 22, which will force the US and Russia to reduce nuclear arms production and resume mutual inspections. The treaty caused some controversy earlier this month when most Republicans were vowing to vote against it; in the end, 13 Republican Senators joined the unanimous Democrats to approve the treaty—another triumph for the Obama agenda.
If one thing is certain, it’s that Obama doesn’t easily accept defeat. He’s revved up his administration since his big loss in November, and it doesn’t appear he’ll be backing down soon. Republicans have been acting like they’ve got the upper hand since the midterms, but Obama’s not having it. In the lame-duck session, he reminded everyone who’s boss.