10/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Democratic Congress Needs To Show Strength

Both Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama are calling for more oversight and accountability before acceding to President Bush's $700 billion authorization for Treasury Secretary Paulson to bailout America's financial markets and rightfully so. One distinct difference in the approaches of the two candidates is in Sen. Obama's call for help for those at the dinner table with a stimulus package of a billion dollars to help families deal with the rising prices on practically every consumer product. The campaigns are forced to posture for appeal to the voters as we near the November elections nearly deadlocked, perhaps accounting for Sen. McCain's sudden zeal for regulation of industries he has recently praised for its deregulation and championed similar treatment for the health care industry, as correctly pointed out in this Obama campaign ad.

Having less concern for their success at the polls, Democrats, with the tide having turned in their favor to dominate Congressional races, if ever there was a time for them to stand as one and refuse to cave in to the Administration and Congressional Republican version of a Wall Street bail out plan, this is it!

The urgency cited as necessary for Congress to quickly enact the near trillion dollar appropriations, is the same leverage Democrats should use to offer veto proof, procedural tactic proof, filibuster proof and signing statement proof amendments to the forthcoming legislation. True oversight over the largest single disbursement of taxpayer dollars in history is the only way to insure that we aren't throwing upwards of a trillion dollars into a economic bonfire. Provisions that help the average American must be a sizable part of any money our children's children are put on the hook for. Democrats caved in to Bush with the authorization to invade Iraq for fear of appearing weak and the result is still echoing through our lives.

Finally disabused of any belief in the correctness of that war,voters began the process of cleaning house of the legislative lock the Republicans held prior to the midterm elections. When the Democrats took control of the House and proposed a long list of legislative initiatives after the 2006 elections, we eagerly watched hoping that at last Congress would change the direction that Bush forced on us. Once elected Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi immediately took impeachment off the table to eliminate cries of partisan politics.The Senate was in Democratic hands by one vote; that being Joe Lieberman who turned out to be a Republican in drag, yet the press and Republicans characterized it as a Democratically controlled Congress. The obstructionist minded Republicans set the battle lines that would mark this session as typical of do nothing legislators to reposition their election hopes for 2008.

Thus was born the Republican policy of using a procedural rule to bottle up bills, Motion to Recommit to stymie legislation the Democrats authored that in any way varied from their narrow agenda. The procedural ploy was in a way proof that the Republicans can use the rules of Governance more effectively than their counterparts and made life hell for Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid.

"House Republicans, fighting to remain relevant in a chamber ruled by Democrats, have increasingly seized on a parliamentary technique to alter or delay nearly a dozen pieces of legislation pushed by the majority this year.
And an election-year promise by Democrats to pay for any new programs they created has made it easier for Republicans to trip them up."

Couple this well planned maneuver with Lieberman's power over legislation backed by Cheney's tie breaking authority as Vice President, and finally dangle the sword of Damocles over their heads, President Bush's veto pen; which he never used until the Democrats had legislation before him, and you get the perfect formula for bottling up governance. Democrats and Independents could only watch as their elected Representatives expressed exasperation and ultimately passed bills that ran counter to their promises like FISA revisions, War funding with no timetables, Oil drilling legislation, etc.

This week allows an opportunity for Democrats in Congress to use the Republican's tactics to shape this emergency bailout bill to help Main Street as well as Wall Street. Democrats can finally show that they have the guts to govern and stand up to the Republicans who created this nightmare. For certain they will face attacks that they are willing to let Wall Street collapse just to score political points, but if they truly fight for the people they can show the American voters that they can grow a pair. Just such toughness and compassion for the citizens will be necessary in the face of what now can be characterized as the greatest economic crisis in the history of governance.

We are about to go over a financial waterfall not knowing the bottom's depth or our true chances of survival. But Wall Street isn't alone, the people have been over a barrel for too long. Food, Gas, Health Care, Credit Cards with all sorts of tricky rates and penalties, Foreclosures, Mortgage values eroding, infrastructure collapsing; all these have barraged John Q. Public. We know the need to shore up financial markets is critical to our well-being; we get it! We also know that if Democrats use this opportunity to leverage their power to refuse to move the bailout through without appending real help for mom's and dads struggling to survive, they can do it! Last week we faced the potential end of our financial livelihood; this week we face the potential end of democratic governance.