A Democratic takeover of Congress this fall could bring the return of an activist federal government, The Washington Post's David Broder reports today.
Broder notes that all the major House committees except Agriculture and International Relations have ranking members that come from the Democratic Party's liberal wing. These prospective chairmen have agendas that reach far beyond the limited government Republicans have tried to create for the past two years, and even beyond the modest goals laid out by President Clinton, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
Rep. George Miller of California, who would be in line to head the House Resources Committee, said he had tried to convince Gephardt and Daschle that "smaller government should not be equated with a loss of liberal values. My argument was that we should stop just listening to pollsters and and ask why people have become angry and distrustful of government."
Few of the prospective chairmen were willing to directly challenge President Clinton's State of the Union declaration that "the era of big government is over." But they clearly have more ambitious goals than the President does. For example, Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, spoke of expanding job-training and job-creation programs in the wake of legislation this session to trim the welfare rolls.
While both Clinton and House Democratic leaders have committed to balancing the federal budget early in the next century, key Democrats in the House aren't as convinced deficit reduction should be the primary focus. "Voters may find priority that is more important than eliminating the deficit in six years," said Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, who would be in line to head the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes, trade, Social Security and Medicare.