Laying the groundwork

It didn’t take long for Democrats to attempt to undo much of what the Republican-led Congresses have done over the last dozen years.

Days after their party won control of Congress in November, some Democratic lawmakers floated the idea of scrapping the planned 700-mile fence along the border with Mexico that was included in legislation signed into law last year.

Repealing the 2002 authorization for the war in Iraq is another high-profile idea that Democrats have considered in the 110th Congress.

The chances of either of these proposals passing are remote at best.

Yet there are a couple other repeal-oriented bills that have a chance to be signed into law, perhaps by another president.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) this week suggested that he will push for a repeal of a provision in a 2005 law that calls for new government standards for driver’s licenses, according to The Washington Post.

The provision, which was included in the REAL ID Act, has triggered debate on privacy concerns as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) moves to implement the law.

Critics of the standards say they could lead to privacy invasions as DHS looks to build a national database of personal data.
Proponents contend REAL ID is an integral part of protecting the U.S. from terrorism, adding that it was recommended by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission.

While Democrats, and a few Republicans, in both chambers support the repeal of the provision, it’s unlikely to get to the president’s desk any time soon. And if it did, President Bush would likely veto it.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is also moving to scrap what the GOP-led Congress did on Internet gambling.

Frank’s new legislation would ease the law’s restrictions, while regulating and taxing Web gambling.

The good news for Frank’s bill is that it would raise billions of dollars in revenue. The bad news is that most members, including a few in the Democratic leadership, support restrictions on Internet gambling.

Getting the necessary backing for passage will be difficult in the House. And even if it somehow attracts 218 votes, passage in the Senate is extremely unlikely during this Congress. The White House would veto this measure as well.

Leahy and Frank are shrewd legislators. They know that their bills face major hurdles, but they are also well aware that passing controversial bills usually takes years, sometimes decades.

Therefore, Leahy and Frank will take legislative baby steps during the next two years on their respective repeal bills. They’ll hold hearings and maybe even mark up their measures in committee while trying to persuade some of their skeptical colleagues.

And if Democrats retain control of the Congress and win the White House in 2008, Leahy and Frank will go to Phase Two of their legislative plans.

It took congressional Republicans a long time to get their major pieces of legislation to passage from 1995 to 2006. Democrats have begun the journey of reversing at least some of what the GOP did.