New Congress To Block Old Agenda of the Religious Right

The Jewish Week notes that the Christian right’s agenda is in shambles and gives some specifics as to what the changes in Congress will mean:

Everyone agrees that the Evangelical right’s legislative agenda for the next session of Congress appears dead as a result of Tuesday’s Democratic House victory. That is a source of great satisfaction for mainstream Jewish groups; they strongly opposed several measures passed by the House last session that had the movement’s backing.

These include the Public Expression of Religion Act, which would stop judges from awarding lawyers’ fees to plaintiffs who win suits against the government for violating the separation of religion and state. Another bill passed last session would empower faith-based groups to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring staff for government-funded social service programs such as Head Start.

Both bills are stalled in the Senate. With the change in control of the House, “passage of these bills now becomes much less likely,” said Richard Foltin, head of the American Jewish Committee’s Washington office.

Furthermore, he observed, with unsympathetic Democratic members taking over House committee chairmanships, the movement’s prospects for moving new legislation forward are dim.

Even in the Senate, where the victorious party remained uncertain, many noted the defeat of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) as a devastating setback for the Christian right.

“He was the de facto leader of the social conservatives on the Hill,” said Marshal Wittman, a former official with the Christian Coalition now affiliated with the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democratic think tank. “He carried their water on key issues. He was their most prominent advocate. And he was in the Senate Republican leadership.”

The article also reviews recent scandals among the religious right, as well as differences of opinion. Some are interested in other issues such as poverty where they can work with Democrats, while others only see themselves as part of the right wing:

“The bottom line is that the social conservatives will remain a powerful force within the Republican Party. … It’s unlikely they’ll have any significant relationship with Democratic leaders. Essentially we have one conservative and one liberal party. And the Evangelicals are part of the conservative party.”

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5 Comments

  1. 1
    battlebob says:

    I dunno Ron.
    I thought Dems are showing a more pragmatic side.
    By solving problems and including Repubs in the process, we may make the big L not a curse word.
    Bush’s desire to cooperate is phony as it lasted until he tried to get Bolton confirmed.
    Pelosi has gone on record saying Repubs will be allowed to particpate in the process.
    They changed the rules limiting minority participation. She knows the arrogance led to Repub defeats and wants to not make the same mistake.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    battlebob,

    Being pragmatic and allowing the Republicans to participate doesn’t mean letting Republicans continue to push the agenda of the religious right, especially where it conflicts with separation of Church and State.

  3. 3
    battlebob says:

    If the Repubs keep pushing the right wing agenda, pelosi will cut them out.
    The idea is to meet somwhere in the middle between each party.
    But if the Repubs don’t want to, Dems can go over their heads. They won’t be able to override Bush vetos though.

    So to get things veto proof, everyone had to cooperate a little.
    Pelosi is in a tough spot. Inorder to remain in power, Dems need to get legislation pased. To do that, they need Repub support. She has to support her own base and offer legilation that Repubs will accept.
    Dems are going for easy ones like raising the minimum wage. There should be enough Repub support that even a Bush veto can be overruled.
    Later on, after a few victories then the tuff stuff can be proposed, Bush will veto it, and we can nail the Repubs for going against the will of the people.

    We get stuff passed; we show the public we can govern effectively; we win more seats and the POTUS in 2008.

    To paraphrase Norquist…I would like the Republican Party to be so small we can flush it down a toilet and not leave a stain.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    battlebob,

    At very least Republicans cannot push the agenda of the religious right in Congress as anything along those lines would never make it out of committee.

    It is too early to tell what will pass. It is possible that some measures will pass by giving each party some of what they want. When push comes to shove, Republicans will give a lot to keep their tax cuts on capital gains. It is likely they can reach an agreement with Bush on immigration, especially now that some of the most hard line Republicans lost.

    I’d like to see them work on things such as new energy sources to reduce dependence on the middle east. There may be room for a bipartisan consensus there. I’d also like to see them push for a Kerry-type health care package, pushing it based upon both how it helps consumers who cannot afford care and how it helps businesses be more competitive. As this doesn’t screw around with the insurance companies like Hillary did there is the possibility that a bipartisan consensus could be reached here as well. It is also possible that neither party will want to allow the other to solve problems such as these and everything could be reduced to posturing for 2008.

    Controlling both Houses allows the Democrats to set the agenda, as you note putting Bush in the position of having to accept or veto popular measures promoted by Democrats.

  5. 5
    battlebob says:

    Ron,
    Most of the issues mentioned are standard Dem fare. It may be easier to get veto-proof legislation as you said, many hard liners are gone.
    I am OK with corporate tax cuts as long as the cuts are used to expand business or hire new people. Clinton did this really well.
    If we use Kerry’s 2004 agenda as a guide, we will do just fine. We have a perfect oppurtunity to really do a lot of good things for our country without screwing the rest of the world. If Bush wants to be an obstructionist, Dems will win the POTUS and many of the 67 Senate seats up for grabs in 2008.

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