After the self-described “shellacking” Obama and the Dems got in November, the turnaround in this lame duck session has been nothing short of extraordinary. 5 major pieces of legislation were passed during a time when nothing usually gets done. And all of it was bipartisan in one form or another.

Let’s run down what they were able to accomplish in this lame duck session.

  • Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The moderate Clinton wanted to repeal, without doing the studies, so he had to make this compromise. This was one of Obama’s key campaign promises and he delivered a huge civil rights victory. At the same time he made John McCain look like a liar for saying he would support it if the studies showed a repeal would do very little harm to our military. They did, and he still didn’t back it. Oh well.
  • Extension of Tax Cuts. Plus Obama got a new payroll tax holiday and new write-off rules for businesses that could generate a ton of new investment in every sector of the economy. A lot of Dems didn’t like that tax cuts were being extended for the rich (income and estate), but they were able to get unemployment insurance extended in a time when we need to make sure that money doesn’t dry up. Not only that, polls showed that a large majority didn’t favor extending the tax cuts for the wealthy, so the national/independent mood was right in line with where Obama was at. Trust that this will be used against Repubs in the coming years as they try to slash federal programs…while still trying to maintain those tax cuts. If they were smart, they’d let them expire in 2012.
  • Ratification of the START Treaty. No small feat since Repubs had the votes to strike this one down, but ultimately their hand was forced when some Republicans started jumping ship and siding with Dems. Why? Because the treaty is solid and the reasons Repubs were going to vote against were very thin.
  • Passing the 9/11 health bill. The administration owes Jon Stewart a big thanks for dedicating an entire program to this topic and putting it back on the media’s radar. Why Republicans voted against it in the first place is beyond me. Well, I know the reasons they cited…like saying it was a slush fund for special interests groups. Sure, if it were a massive health care bill for ALL first responders, that would have been understandable, but Repubs really overreached and made a huge strategic error.
  • New Food Safety Bill. In much the same way the financial regulation legislation passed earlier this year was the most substantive since The Great Depression, so too was this. And it helped local farmers at the same time. Basically, big Agra needs to be more accountable and the FDA can demand recalls. Right now they have to rely on producers to do it. Local farmers are not subject to these new regulations and that’s sure to drive more competition for the increasingly local/sustainable markets.

All of this begs a couple questions. 1) Did the election really diminish Obama? 2) Or has it helped him quickly move back towards the center to capture the spirit of his presidential campaign as we head a season where he’s sure to get attacked by GOP hopefuls?

What do you think?

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