Voters seemingly poised to hand control of the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate to Democrats should be thinking hard about the consequences on an array of defining issues. The most reliable guide to those consequences is not what Democrats are saying on the campaign stump — or mostly not saying, witness the suddenly missing Nancy Pelosi — but how they have actually voted in Congress again and again on core issues.
Bluntly put, there is ample reason to conclude that the prospective Democratic majorities in Congress would, in fact, be weak on national security, defeatist on Iraq, prone to raise taxes and would lean well to the left on cultural values.
Too harsh a judgment, you say? Consider the record.
Start with national security, which should be an urgent, paramount priority for a country at war that has already suffered a catastrophic terrorist attack.
Electronic monitoring of terrorist communications obviously is vital to protecting Americans from another 9/11. Yet, when majority Republicans in the House passed the Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act in September specifically authorizing the National Security Agency to intercept terrorist communications entering the United States, 177 House Democrats voted no. Only 18 Democrats voted yes.
When majority Republicans in the House, responding to a Supreme Court decision, voted last September to authorize military tribunals to try the most dangerous terrorist suspects, 162 House Democrats voted no.
In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration proposed creation of a Department of Homeland Security to coordinate domestic defenses against a future terrorist attack. The House vote establishing the DHS in July 2002 saw 120 Democrats, well over half of the House Democratic caucus, vote no.
Passage of the counterterrorism Patriot Act a month after 9/11 and its renewal last March were opposed repeatedly, in seven out of eight recorded votes, by a solid majority of House Democrats. Final passage of the Patriot Act II renewal legislation in March was opposed by 123 House Democrats.
On each of these votes, House Minority Leader, and now prospective speaker, Nancy Pelosi voted with the majority of Democrats against these national security imperatives.
North Korea’s test of a nuclear weapon and Iran’s nuclear weapons program coupled with its continued testing of long-range ballistic missiles make a clearly compelling case for a U.S. missile-defense system. But a majority of congressional Democrats has been voting against missile defense for years.
On Iraq, congressional Democrats have no agreed-upon solutions — just a clear preference for retreat. Pelosi emphatically backed Rep. John Murtha’s call late last year for withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq within six months, regardless of the predictably disastrous consequences. Flip-flopping Sen. John Kerry voted for the war in 2002 and defended it when he ran for president in 2004 but now favors abandoning Iraq.
Rep. Charles Rangel, the New York Democrat in line to be chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, hints that Democrats might try forcing a troop withdrawal by denying funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq. (Historical note: Comparable votes by a heavily Democratic Congress doomed America’s allies in South Vietnam and Cambodia to defeat by a brutal communist enemy in 1975.)
On taxes and the economy, most congressional Democrats voted against the pro-growth Bush tax cuts that now fuel a robust economic expansion. Rangel says he would put all of the Bush tax cuts on the congressional "chopping block." Rangel also says that none of the Bush tax cuts merit renewal when they expire after 2010. Letting the Bush tax cuts expire would over time impose a cumulative tax increase of $2.4 trillion, adding massively to the tax burden and imposing a huge drag on future economic growth.
As for cultural issues, the ideological center of gravity of congressional Democrats is manifestly more liberal than that of the middle America they profess to represent. This disconnect includes a stubbornly absolutist opposition to sensible, humane restrictions on abortion.
As recently as 2003, 137 Democrats in the House and 29 in the Senate, roughly two-thirds of all congressional Democrats, voted against banning partial-birth abortions, a late-term pregnancy termination so brutal it is likened by the Vatican to infanticide.
In 2005, 145 Democrats in the House voted against legislation prohibiting the transportation of a minor girl across state lines to obtain an abortion without the consent of a parent, guardian or a judge. This year, 29 of the 44 Senate Democrats voted against a ban on transporting a minor across state lines to circumvent parental notification for an abortion.
A majority of House and Senate Democrats has also voted in favor of having schools distribute morning-after pills as contraception.
You won’t see any of these votes mentioned in the Democrats’ campaign ads touting their fealty to "family values." Nor are you seeing Democrats boasting of their votes to weaken America’s defenses, deny law enforcement essential tools against terrorism, and countenance an American defeat in Iraq. Why mar the gauzy campaign mosaics with mere facts?
We will learn Tuesday whether America’s voters are sufficiently disgruntled to hand one or both houses of Congress to the Democrats. If they do, let no one claim later that they weren’t warned.