It has become an interesting question in Washington these days whether President Obama is leading his party in Congress or his party is leading him.
A case in point is a provision in that $410 billion spending bill now making its way to his desk — a provision intended to assure the death of a highly popular school voucher program in Washington, D.C.
The program — paid for with federal, not local funds — has allowed about 1,700 D.C. children to attend private schools instead of the city's public schools, considered among the worst in the nation. A measure of the program's popularity is that there have been about four times more applicants than there are spaces.
The city's new schools chief, Michelle Rhee, says the program should continue. Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan agrees. But the teacher's unions and the school system bureaucracy don't like it and neither do congressional Democrats, who slipped in the language to kill it. The Senate voted Tuesday to keep that language in.
This puts the president in an awkward position because two of the kids getting vouchers go to Sidwell Friends School, the elite academy attended by his two daughters. Thus he would be signing a bill that would strip two poor kids of the educational opportunity his own daughters are getting.
President Obama has reportedly said privately he would like to avoid this embarrassment, but so far not a word of objection from him or the White House.