From The Fix at The Washington Post:
Evan Bayh’s announcement [...] that he and 14 other Democratic senators had begun to meet weekly to discuss ways in which the moderate/centrist wing of the party could ensure its voice is better heard by the White House and Senate leadership is the latest example of the Indiana Democrat’s increased willingness to critique — and tweak — the Obama administration.
Original DVD cover.
[left to right, bottom: Mary Landrieu (LA), Herb Kohl (WI), Claire McCaskill (MO), Mark Begich (AK), Mark Warner (VA), Evan Bayh (IN); top: Ben Nelson (N), Joe Lieberman (CT), Mark Udall (CO), Jeanne Shaheen (NH)]
A quick examination of the early days of the Obama administration reveals that Bayh has backed up that rhetoric with action.
He was one of just three Senate Democrats who voted against the $410 billion omnibus spending bill [**the others were Claire McCaskill (MO) and Russ Feingold (WI)] and he urged President Obama to veto the bill in a high profile op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. (Obama did not.) Bayh also has expressed doubts about the amount of money dedicated to health care reform and climate change in the president’s budget, calling for an emphasis on lowering costs rather than simply spending more.
Bayh’s actions have caused some grumbling — privately, of course — among some in the White House who view his freelancing as less than helpful in seeking to push Obama’s legislative agenda through Congress.
Bayh’s middle of the road approach is in character for the Indiana Democrat who has built a political career on being a voice of moderation. But, Bayh’s willingness to cross swords with the administration is notable since he was one of the two finalists to be Obama’s vice presidential choice — eventually losing out to his one-time colleague Joe Biden.
Neutral observers have offered up any number of reasons for Bayh’s ramped-up critique of the Obama administration.
Sylvia Smith, the Washington editor of the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette, ascribes the change to the fact that Bayh will stand for reelection in 2010 in a state that, despite going for Obama in 2008, remains conservative-minded at its core.
Smith also sees evidence of Bayh’s broader (read: national) ambitions in his attempt to emerge as the leading voice of Senate Democratic moderates. “If the economy doesn’t improve and Obama’s popularity tanks, Democrats may be in the market for a nominee whose fiscal conservatism is well established,” she writes. “If Obama isn’t ready for replacement in four years … well, 2016 will come around soon enough.”
From our perspective, it’s hard to see Bayh losing his Senate seat in 2010 barring some sort of major unforeseen development.
Bayh’s attempt then to become not just the leader of Senate Democratic moderates but also someone willing to speak out against his party’s president seems more aimed at bolstering his national credentials than anything else.
The gang’s already hanging out and having a grand old time! I got my hands on some candid pictures that I will share with you. The kids are so close that they even go house to house to make sure they are all awake in time for their meetings:
[left to right: Blanche Lincoln (AR), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Tom Carper (DE), Mark Udall (CO), Kay Hagan (NC)]
Here are some of the guys having some fun at the petting zoo. They are playfully demonstrating how AIG got their goat!
[left to right: Michael Bennet (CO), Bill Nelson (FL), Joe Lieberman (CT), Evan Bayh (IN), Ben Nelson (NE)]
At least, I hope that’s what they’re doing. I can’t see the back of the goat, and Joe and Evan look a little too happy…