So Hard To Choose

The New York Times reports on the end of today’s bailout hearing:

As Mr. [Barney] Frank adjourns the hearing, he admits that aid for the automakers would likely come in the form of “a bill next week that nobody likes.” Clearly much negotiation will be needed in the days ahead, but he now believes that support among his colleagues is building. “I hope that we will get something acceptable enough to member of both houses that we will avert disaster,” Mr. Frank says. “I have more optimism than I had before.”

So: we’re either building momentum, or Congressmen would be foolish to give them a dime. We’ll get the money from TARP, or we’ll vote new money. Or they can use the money already allocated for “green” conversion. Or they can fend for themselves. If you’re getting the sense things are adrift and no one wants to really bring this to a head — you’re right.

There is a reason President-elect Obama is laying low. This is a lose-lose. Sure, he’d like to get this “out of the way,” but to forcefully push for money would put him right in the middle of a huge fight — both within his party and with conservatives. So Congress is on its own. This then becomes a a test of sorts for the Democratic Congress — can they make hard choices and navigate through conflicting constituencies? So far the answer is a resounding “no.”

As Michigan Sen. Carl Levin lamely put it: “It’s very cumbersome for Congress to act. There were so many different approaches thrown out there.” Yeah, legislating is hard, Senator. In this case, legislative incompetence and confusion may be a blessing, at least for the taxpayers.