The End of the License Controversy?

Eliot Spitzer is making his second trip to Washington D.C. today, to explain his decision to back off his plan to allow illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses.

Spitzer will make the announcement flanked by New York’s Democratic congressional delegation, which almost uniformly opposes a related aspect of that driver’s license policy: the federal Real ID Act.

The long-term political question is going to be whether this will be the beginning of a second act for Spitzer, in which he finally regains control of a governing agenda that’s been getting away from him since he took office. Short-term, though, the question will be whether this will really allow him to step away cleanly from the licensing issue at all. Certainly, his Republican opponents will do their best to see that the controversy lingers.

“The fight is not over,” said Republican consultant Bill O‘Reilly, who has worked against Spitzer on the driver‘s license issue. “If Governor Spitzer walks away today from New York’s commitment to the Real ID program, an express recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, this controversy will grow.”

Oh, and pro-immigration liberals might not let it go, either. Phil Anderson, a progressive blogger with The Albany Project, thinks Spitzer ought to use this opportunity to renounce his support for that very same Real ID program, which Spitzer endorsed in the middle of the license fight as a concession to the Bush administration.

“There’s a reason that 17 other states have passed legislation specifically rejecting it. As for the way forward, the governor has an agenda he can easily embrace. It’s the one he ran on. Voters elected him to clean up Albany and deliver to them a functioning, democratic (small d) state government. The great tragedy of Spitzer’s embrace of this now discarded policy was that it changed the subject and strengthened the very corrupt status quo that he was elected to change.”

The governor’s speech comes one day after a poll showed declining support for the governor’s license policy, and for his re-election in 2010.