Boren: Democrats may lose Congress
BY JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Sunday, January 10, 2010
1/10/10 at 4:41 AM
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, Oklahoma's only Democrat in Congress, predicts his party will lose seats in elections later this year.
While such a statement falls in the category of conventional wisdom that historically has the party in power losing congressional seats in mid-term elections, Boren parts company with others within his own party by suggesting such a setback would be a "good thing for Oklahoma and for me.''
"If we have a tight majority one way or another, that puts me in the driver's seat,'' the three-term lawmaker said.
"In the 112th (Congress), I probably will have the most influence I have ever had, no matter who has the majority.''
Describing a Republican takeover of the House as a "tall order'' for the GOP, Boren said his party, even if it retains the majority in a new Congress that convenes in 2011, will be forced back toward the center politically.
He pointed to new figures on job losses and described his party's legislative agenda last year as one of missed opportunities on the economic front.
"I think the House Democratic leadership along with the administration made a very large mistake by focusing on a lot of different pieces of legislation that would not do a lot to help the economy,'' Boren said.
At the top of that list of mistakes, he places health-care legislation, which is expected to pass Congress in the coming weeks, and the cap-and-trade measure, which passed the House but is not at this point expected to come out of the Senate with the cap-and-trade provisions.
Boren voted against both bills and vowed to oppose the health-care legislation when it comes back to the floor for a final vote on its way to President Obama's desk.
Both cap-and-trade and health-care bills include tax increases that should not be considered in the middle of a recession, he says.
"To me, it makes no sense,'' Boren said.
Given the significance of both of those bills, the congressman plays down reports that he voted with the Democratic majority in the House about 70 percent of the time when it came to bills highlighted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and about 87 percent on votes included in a Washington Post database.
"Those pieces of legislation defined my 111th (Congress),'' Boren said of health-care and cap-and-trade bills.
He said that kind of agenda helped threaten Democrats' majorities in the House and Senate, adding that his constituents believe the economy should be the focus right now and other issues such as health care are more of a distraction.
"The Democratic Party has done it to itself,'' Boren said.
Pelosi and other top House Democrats clearly had a different take on their party's agenda during the last session.
During a year-ending press conference, the California Democrat pointed to the health-care and climate-change bills as two of the big success stories in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Pelosi described the climate-change issue as the flagship of her speakership, adding such legislation should be passed to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, improve the air and advance technology.
She said the issue is also a moral one because of the obligation of preserving the planet, which was created by God.
Asked about poll numbers that do not bode well for Democrats and their agenda, Pelosi said now that the heavy lifting of 2009 is over, her party will have time to present its accomplishments to the public.
"Now as these bills are finished and go to the president's desk, we can message them to the American people,'' she said. "We have to have a product in order to merchandise it.''
Pelosi also credited the work of the past session for creating or saving jobs but conceded more must be done on the economic front.
Asked about Pelosi specifically, Boren said no poll is needed to know that the speaker is not popular in his district.
He said his vote on that post in the new Congress will depend on how Democrats do in the upcoming election and who will end up running for the job.
Despite his disappointment with his own party, Boren said he will remain a Democrat.
"I would never switch parties,'' he said.
Referencing an old saying, Boren said he was born a Democrat and will die one.
Jim Myers (202) 484-1424
Rep. Dan Boren: He says a tough election cycle for liberal Democrats will force Congress toward the center.