For Dems, a welcome change of gears

Indeed, the spill — which scientists estimate could cause decades of devastation and could wipe out the Gulf's fishing industry — has galvanized the country and becomes the change of subject Democrats needed badly, as I explained in my column this week. 
 
Democrats have scheduled hearings into the accident, and the debate over regulation and oversight of oil drilling will return to the headlines once again. Watch for questions about whether or not this was preventable, and wait to see whether the Congress passes the "Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act." This would expand liability for companies responsible for spills, in this case British Petroleum, to $10 billion beyond cleanup. Liabilities are currently capped at $75 million. Yes, million.
 
As the party unveiled its "Results Party" message for the midterms last week, Democrats made clear they are running on a populist, solutions-based message. They are giving themselves credit for taking the economy from recession to recovery, and boasting about stock market improvement in the last year, even as they bash Wall Street on the Senate floor.
 
After they pass new financial-services legislation, what they are calling "Wall Street reform," Democrats will push legislation designed to mitigate the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee, which now permits unlimited corporate and labor spending in elections. The Disclose Act will require strict disclosure of such spending, and Democrats are already facing stiff opposition from business.
 
Democrats are way behind, and the electorate — the kind of voters who show up for midterms — are scorching mad at them. It will take a lot for them to turn the tide. But they hope to convince enough voters that Republicans are protecting Wall Street, Big Oil and even the health insurance industry. If they do, the election may not be the thumpin' it looks like now.
 


WILL THE SPILL REVIVE ENERGY REFORM? Ask A.B. returns Tuesday, May 11. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.

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