By Maria Saporta
Uncertainty is the theme of the day when it comes to possible bills and regulations coming out of Washington, D.C.
That’s what former U.S. Sen. John Sununu (R-New Hampshire) said Wednesday to attendees of the 2010 Capital Connection conference put on by the Association for Corporate Growth’s Atlanta Chamber.
“Uncertainty affects everything,” Sununu said. “Uncertainty is the order of the day.”
As examples, Sununu said many initiatives are up in the air — health care reform, energy legislation, financial regulations and oversight, cap and trade as well as tax reform.
The equation in Washington completed shifted with Scott Brown, a Republican, was elected to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts. “The election is absolutely historic,” said Sununu, adding that it already has impacted the prospects for health care reform.
It also has put the rest of Congress on notice. Sununu said that there are 70 Democrats in the U.S. House who are from districts where the 2008 vote for president was evenly split or districts that Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain won.
The combination of Brown’s win along with the recent elections in Virginia and New Jersey has shifted the debate. Health care now is almost back to square one, Sununu said.
The best chance of getting any kind of health care reform through will be in proposing incremental changes — such as removing the barriers of pre-existing conditions, implementing tort reform, providing tax credits for the uninsured. But Sununu said that such an approach likely will be opposed by liberal Democrats, who had hoped to implement comprehensive reform.
“Congress is forever looking for the comprehensive solution, the comprehensive bill,” Sununu said. “This is rarely a successful approach.”
Also, Congress and the current administration has a hard time claiming victory, even when it’s justified.
“I voted for TARP (the bailout bill for the financial industry passed in the fall of 2008), and by December, I was on the oversight panel,” Sununu said. “It helped take the patient out of cardiac arrest. And 85 percent of that TARP money will be recovered. But Congress can’t declare a modest victory.”
Sununu said there are long term issues that do need to be addressed — primarily the nation’s deficits, which he described as “unsustainable,” and work on the “unfunded liabilities” of Medicare and Medicaid.
But again, give the political uncertainties in Washington, Sununu wasn’t particularly optimistic that those issues will be addressed by the Obama administration and the current Congress.
“The worst job in the world is being majority leader of the Senate,” Sununu said, expressing sincere empathy for his former colleague, Harry Reid (D-Nevada). “Every senator is an island. Every senator is a flotilla. They are very independent.”
When Democrats had a 60-40 majority in the Senate, Reid had “60 cats going in different directions.” Sununu said Reid might have been better off with a 55-45 majority because then the Senate would have been forced to garner bipartisan support for health care reform.