This was an important victory for the administration, an indication that Republicans are firmly in control on Capitol Hill & that the Republican leadership won't flinch in the face of discouraging numbers. To read most media accounts of this session of Congress, you’d think that the administration's program is a shambles. Social Security changes have been deferred, free trade is in trouble, judicial nominations are being held up, etc., etc. Actually the Republicans have been faring pretty well. They’ve passed the bankruptcy bill & the class-action bill. The House is moving with uncustomary speed on appropriations. The defense authorization bill, with important provisions, is moving forward. Senate Majority Leader Bill First is pressing estate-tax repeal.
September is also the deadline for the report of the tax commission headed by former Sens. Connie Mack & John Breaux. No one's sure what they'll put forward. But Ways & Means Chairman Bill Thomas has shown the capacity to steer complex legislation through committee & to success on the floor, sometimes by only one or two votes. His procedure is to put together complex & sometimes unrelated provisions which can add votes to the measure until he comes up with a majority. If you pass a bill by more than one vote, he once said, you’ve given away too much.
Many conservatives expressed dissatisfaction with the Bush administration & the Republican legislative record on the grounds that it hasn't produced the kind of massive changes that Bush has promised. Many liberals in the media & otherwise have made similar characterizations.
There’s some truth to these charges. But what Bush & the Republicans have been doing, you can see it most clearly on tax cuts, where they’ve rolled out one incremental change after another, is less to reduce government than to change it, step by step, so that it provides individuals with more choice & accountability.