Democratic Revolt May Slow Obama Agenda

Some moderate Democrats may be waking up to the destructive plans Emperor Obama I and the liberal Democratic leadership have for this country.

Democratic Reps. Jim Matheson of Utah and Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona have joined a quiet revolt in the House that could slow some of President Obama’s fast-moving priorities.

The two are among 49 Democrats from congressional districts that backed Republican Sen. John McCain ‘s 2008 presidential race and whose support for the Democratic majority’s progressive agenda is increasingly not assured.

A dozen of them were among 20 House Democrats who voted against the $410 billion discretionary fiscal 2009 spending package (HR 1105) on Feb. 25. Another group later forced House leaders to sideline a contentious bill (HR 1106) to allow bankruptcy judges to modify home loans.

Although only a handful of moderate and conservative Democrats abandoned their leaders during party-line votes on the economic stimulus law (PL 111-5), the group of vulnerable Democrats branded the omnibus spending bill as a budget buster and questioned whether the mortgage bill would raise interest rates on average home-owners and cause some struggling homeowners to rush to bankruptcy.

The defections could cause heartburn for Democratic leaders charged with ushering through Obama’s three biggest priorities: a health care overhaul, a cap-and-trade system to curb carbon emissions and his fiscal 2010 budget blueprint. The president might also have trouble winning their votes for an anticipated second financial bailout package.

“My job is not to be a rubber stamp for the president or Democratic leadership, but to be a voice for the people that elected me,” Giffords said. “I voted for the stimulus, but found I could not vote for the omnibus.” She faces a tough 2010 campaign in a state that will be dominated by McCain’s expected re-election to his Senate seat.

For his part, Matheson echoed Giffords’ concerns about an increase of $31 billion, or 8 percent, in discretionary spending in the nine bills contained in the omnibus measure. Like Giffords, he also has raised concerns about the mortgage bankruptcy bill, which many banks oppose.

“A lot needs to be done to help people keep their homes. But I’m just not sure about this bill,” Giffords said.

John B. Larson of Connecticut, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said party leaders would respond to recent defections by trying to slow the pace of bills to allow more time for hearings and debate. “Everything’s coming at them fast and furious. The more that people get an opportunity to go back and forth . . . the greater the comfort level they will have,” Larson said.

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer , D-Md., acknowledged the defections, saying: “We have a very diverse party, with diverse opinions. We’re working on it.”

Many of the 49 Democrats in the group have particular concerns about Obama’s call for allowing the Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy families to expire.

“I don’t agree with the administration about letting all those tax cuts expire for upper-income families,” said Harry E. Mitchell , D-Ariz. He argues for retaining the current 15 percent rate on capital gains and for permanent reductions in the estate tax.

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