Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Clinton Agenda without Congress on Her Side, Her Presidency Could Stall

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Clinton Agenda without Congress on Her Side, Her Presidency Could Stall

Article excerpt

It ain't over until the portly gentleman screams, but it is, as intelligence analysts say, highly likely that Hillary Clinton will win this election. Poll-based models put her chances at around 90 percent earlier this week - and that was before the campaign turned totally X-rated.

But what will our first female president actually be able to accomplish? That depends on how big a victory she achieves.

I'm not talking about the size of her "mandate," which means nothing: If the Obama years are any indication, Republicans will oppose anything she proposes no matter how badly they lose. The question, instead, is what happens to Congress.

Consider, first, the effects of a minimal victory: Ms. Clinton becomes president, but Republicans hold on to both houses of Congress.

Such a victory wouldn't be meaningless. It would avert the nightmare of a Trump presidency, and it would also block the radical tax-cutting, privatizing agenda that Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, has made clear he will steamroll through if Mr. Trump somehow wins. But it would leave little room for positive action.

Things will be quite different if Democrats retake the Senate. Poll-based models give this outcome only around a 50-50 chance, but people betting on the election give it much better odds, 2 or 3-to-1.

Now, even a Democratic Senate wouldn't enable Ms. Clinton to pass legislation in the face of an implacably obstructionist Republican majority in the House. It would, however, allow her to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia.

Doing that would have huge consequences, for environmental policy in particular. In his final years in office, President Barack Obama has made a major environmental push using his regulatory powers, for example by sharply tightening emission standards for heavy trucks.

But the most important piece of his push - the Clean Power Plan, which would greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants - is currently on hold, thanks to a stay imposed by the Supreme Court. Democratic capture of the Senate would remove this roadblock.

And bear in mind that climate change is by far the most important issue facing America and the world, even if the people selecting questions for the presidential debates for some reason refuse to bring it up. …

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