Dem quandary on cuts

The House recently passed another H.R. 1, but this time, with Republicans in the majority, the measure called for $61 billion in spending cuts. 

The two pieces of legislation could not be more different, and in being so are emblems of how far the political winds have shifted in a short space of time.

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And the White House has deftly shifted with them. It has governed very differently since the GOP’s landslide victory in last November’s congressional elections.

The shift has, naturally, left many House Democrats displeased with President Obama; they are irritated by his aggressive, even showy, move to the middle. 

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), known for speaking his mind, told MSNBC on Monday that liberals need to apply pressure on Obama to make him “act like a Democrat.”

He added that Obama caved on the tax-cut deal he struck with the GOP late last year.

The political wilderness is a harsh environment. But people don’t always stay there very long (just ask the GOP majority, that was on the outs for only four years). 

So it is far from implausible to argue that Democrats are more likely to be the majority party in the House than in the Senate in 2013. Senate Democrats must defend twice as many seats as their opponents. Moreover, a new survey from Public Policy Polling will come as good news for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her lieutenants; 43 percent of voters think House Republicans are doing a worse job than the Democrats did, while only 36 percent think the GOP is an improvement. 

So Obama can’t lose touch with the House Democratic Caucus. Maybe Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), the soon-to-be chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, will be an asset to Obama in that regard.

Still, for now, liberal Democrats are forced to accept that the public wants significant cuts. After the election, most congressional Democrats, and the president, went no further than suggesting a freeze in discretionary spending. Pushed by the GOP, however, they moved to embrace tens of billions of dollars in cuts. 

Politically, it is popular now to slash the budget. That’s why both parties signed off on the fiscal 2011 deal.

Yet more House Democrats (42) than Republicans (28) voted against the emergency stopgap bill on Friday. As DeFazio indicated, House Democrats want to send Obama a message that they will not support every deal he inks with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). 

The brushback could come this week when the grand compromise struck on Friday night hits the House floor. House Republican leaders will suffer some defections and will likely need some Democrats to get to 218 votes.

It will be telling how many Democrats vote with the president, and how many ostentatiously look the other way.