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Triangulation Time Again?

The Washington Post reports:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is urging the incoming Obama administration to stick to its campaign pledge and immediately increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans, a position that President-elect Barack Obama has wavered on since winning election.

Pelosi told reporters today that she “couldn’t be more clear” in opposing some Obama advisers’ wish to wait for the tax cuts on the highest income earners to expire in two years, as they are set to do under current law. “Put me down as clearly as you possibly can as one who wants to have those tax cuts for the wealthiest in America repealed,” she said.

But, alas, the voice of sanity in the person of Sen. Richard Durbin (everything in politics is relative) pipes up:

Sen. Richard Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, put the chances for repeal at practically nil, especially given Obama’s expressed reservations. “The president-elect believes this may not be the moment,” Durbin said, referring to the economic crisis. “I agree with her in principal,” he added, “but I disagree with her on timing.”

All of this and the goings-on this week (e.g. Roland Burris, the Leon Panetta appointment, the stimulus plan discussions) leave one wondering whether the President-elect won’t have more in common with the Congressional Republicans than his own party over the next two years. Both will want to govern from the center or center-right – President Obama to create a permanent and expanding governing majority and Republicans to get back in the political game. Both have an interest in exposing and eradicating corruption — which is increasingly a Democratic phenomenon.

A Republican insider on Capitol Hill isn’t quite ready to sing President-elect Obama’s praises, but does concede the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue aren’t necessarily going to be in sync:

So for now, it’s interesting to see how congressional Democrats are undermining the ideals Obama is promoting: transparency (Pelosi’s new House rules), bipartisanship (Reid playing procedural games already and pushing Ledbetter[ Equal Pay Act legislation]), good ideas coming from both sides (Dem senators ripping on Obama tax cut plan), having good relations with Congress (Reid announcing he doesn’t work for Obama, saying he won’t let Biden attend caucus lunches, and Dems criticizing cabinet picks like Panetta and Gupta), and clean government (Rangel, Dodd, , etc).

Needless to say there’s some friction there that savvy Republicans might exploit. It wouldn’t be the first time triangulation was tried. The rub here, however, is that Republicans will be under increasing pressure from the angry and disaffected base to draw bright lines and avoid compromises with the new President. It will be a tricky balance for Congressional Republicans — making cause with the President against Democratic extremists, keeping the base happy and demonstrating they are more than the “me too” or the “no way” party.

But they have one thing in their favor: Harry Reid. If ever Republicans were in need of a ham-handed, unlikable and ineffectual opponent now is the time. And Reid is the just the man to do it.


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