At the moment, it appears that Congress will adjourn tonight after defeating today the attempts of Growth Republicans, led by Reps. Newt Gingrich and Vin Weber, to force a vote on the GOP growth package. The adjournment will be provisional, though, permitting the Democratic leadership to call Congress back in mid-December if political heat at the grass roots gets so hot they have no other choice. Once again, President Bush has allowed himself to be bluffed by the Democrats, publicly supporting the Gingrich-Weber strategy with such weasel words that everyone in town knew he really wanted Congress to go home and not come back until January. There actually was a point at which the Democrats thought the White House was trying to trap them into a political corner by going home without taking action on the economy. When House Speaker Tom Foley said he would keep Congress in session to consider the growth options only if the President asked him to, it was the President who was cornered. He simply held up his hands and surrendered.
House Ways & Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski will hold hearings next week on the economy, which is a small plus, in that it maintains a pulse beat in Congress. The hearings at least help keep a focus on the miserable state of the economy as another dismal Christmas season unfolds. The Democrats have covered all their political bases via the provisional adjournment, which protects them against the President making Congress-bashing speeches between now and the State of the Union speech in late January. Indeed, it will be the President's challengers — the Democratic candidates and Pat Buchanan — who will be able to spend the next two months denouncing the rich men in the Bush Administration for preferring duck hunting and golf to serious negotiations on repairing the economy. HUD Secretary Jack Kemp advised his millionaire colleagues in the Cabinet that to the people on the bottom of the heap, "two months is an eternity." My guess is that by next spring confidence in George Bush will be so low as to be beyond repair. One wonders how Kemp will spend the next two months.