Post-health care plotting

POST-HEALTH CARE PLOTTING…. It’s nearly April. There are about seven months until the midterms, and for now, Congress’s approval rating is pretty abysmal. Policymakers, after a lengthy dry-spell, recently completed two major policy breakthroughs, delivering on critically important campaign promises, but now have to decide what to do next.

Jonathan Allen reports that even among Democrats, opinions vary. The White House wants to build on last week’s success to move forward on other ambitious initiatives. There’s some “resistance,” however, on the Hill.

Democrats on Capitol Hill differ as to whether — but mostly to what degree — putting health care reform on the scoreboard has given Obama more juice in Congress.

They uniformly say that swatting Wall Street is a political no-brainer that unifies their party and splits Republicans, and many of them are eager to pass anything that can be labeled a “jobs” bill to show voters that they are focused on reversing economic misfortune. Both offer the opportunity to cater to populist sentiment before the election — and to force the GOP to go along or risk public backlash. […]

As Democrats approach what is expected to be a tough mid-term election, two cross-cutting dynamics are taking hold: Lawmakers who must battle to win re-election are even less inclined to cast tough votes, while some Democratic strategists believe the best bet for party leaders is to use big congressional majorities to enact their agenda before anticipated November losses set them back.

I can appreciate why some hand-wringing incumbents might be content to avoid additional fights, especially in an election year, but members of Congress are rarely punished for too much success. It’s pretty unusual to hear a voter say, “My rep got a lot done. I hate that.”

And there’s still the matter of getting Democrats’ rank-and-file motivated for cycle. The “enthusiasm gap” seems to be shrinking, but all evidence suggests Republicans will be turning out in force on Election Day. The more Dems can maintain some enthusiasm among its voters, the better they’ll fare in November. That means getting the job done on Wall Street reform, repealing DADT, tackling an energy/climate bill, and getting to work on immigration.

These need not be considered “tough votes” — polls show pretty strong support for Democratic proposals on all of these issues.

“There’s still an opportunity to get a bunch of really big things done,” said one senior House Democratic aide.

Dems have to decide to keep their foot on the gas.