The new year holds much promise, and yes, potential peril, for Democrats. It is true that the unity demonstrated by the Democratic caucuses served them well in 2017, but 2018 comes with a warning sign: Election Year ahead!
It is no secret that Republicans will attempt to build on the legislative success of tax reform, including through the reconciliation process, but first they must rely on the Democrats to produce the bipartisan agreement on must pass issues to:
- Fund the government.
- Lift the spending caps for defense and non-defense.
- Address the Dreamers issue along with border security.
- Deal with the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
- Subsidize the Affordable Care Act.
- Address the debt limit.
By sticking together in the face of at times a fractured majority, a truly bipartisan agreement can be reached. But if Democrats venture too far into the bipartisan realm, they risk pushback from the hyper-engaged base voters who would be critical in the 2018 election in every district, whether it’s safe or toss-up.
The next challenge is maintaining the Democratic unity in the face of the upcoming onslaught of Republican votes on issues ranging from welfare reform, balanced budget, entitlement reform and other GOP priorities. These bills will be soundly opposed by Democrats. But as someone who witnessed Members vote aye on amendments or bills they felt they needed to support even though 95% of the caucus opposed vehemently, I fully expect the Republicans to design legislative pitfalls for the most vulnerable Democrats, while protecting their most endangered Members.
These challenges have been faced by the House and Senate Democratic Party Leaders before, but never in a year that holds so much promise, and possible peril, especially in the House. Balancing the interests of the Democratic Caucuses and the voters, while maintaining unity for maximum legislative leverage, is the daily practice in the Art of Impossible.