Last week marked a huge burst of activity from the United States Congress.
Not only did Senate Majority Leader Frist lead his Republican colleagues in an excellent exposing of Democratic obstructionism on judicial nominees, but conference committees finished work on two major pieces of legislation.
House and Senate negotiators finished work on a major energy bill and on a Medicare-reform bill that includes a prescription-drug benefit.
The energy bill contains some traditional pork, but it also authorizes the construction of a new and much needed Alaska natural gas pipeline.
The Medicare-reform bill delivers on the president’s promise of an affordable prescription-drug benefit for seniors while also bringing some much needed experimentation with competitive models into the Medicare bureaucracy.
Democrats from the left have attacked both bills, and true to predictions, Ted Kennedy appeared on Sunday to urge a filibuster of the prescription-drug bill. Teddy would rather have seniors go without much-needed medications than allow the exposure of Medicare as a vast and wasteful bureaucracy that drives prices up even as it results in a rationing of health care through its pricing structure.
Teddy cries crocodile tears over seniors even as he threatens to block the one reform of the program which every candidate running for president in 2000 and 2004 has embraced: A prescription-drug subsidy for the elderly.
It’s not hard to figure the left’s hysteria on both bills. George W. Bush is close to becoming the most accomplished president in the category of major legislation since Nixon, and a successful wartime commander in chief as well. This combination is speeding realignment along, and Democrats know they are perilously close to becoming an irrelevant – if still loud – force in American politics.
Bill Clinton may have invented triangulation, but George W. Bush has perfected it, and the Democratic Party is in the cross-hairs as a result.
The answer for the Democrats is not, however, more obstructionism. If either of these bills is filibustered, every Republican in 2004 will be able to run against every Democrat under the banner of defeating a do-nothing, stop-everything minority party committed only to its superannuated old bulls like Kennedy and Robert Byrd and their ridiculous polemics.
The Democratic Party is trapped by its ancient regime into opposing modest but necessary reforms across the legislative landscape and into defeating accomplished jurists because their race or religion is wrong for the Democratic high priests among the interest-group left.
The Conservative Party in Canada a few years ago went from a major party to an isolated group of non-entities in a single election.
The same fate is beckoning the Democrats. If Ted Kennedy has his way, 2004 may mark the collapse of the Democrats in so thorough-going a fashion as to remove them from significance for a generation to come.