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Bipartisanship sounds nice, but seldom works

By
January 29, 2009

True to his pledge on the campaign trail, President Obama, in the spirit of bipartisanship and a more civil tone in Washington politics, ventured to Capitol Hill this week for separate closed-door meetings with House and Senate Republicans to sell his $825 billion stimulus plan.

It was a trip he didn’t have to make. The stimulus plan will ultimately pass, although getting it through the Senate might be a bit of a chore. In any case, Obama failed in his mission. He changed no Republican minds, but the president got high marks for trying.

The effort was doomed from the start. House GOP leaders rather churlishly announced that they were voting against the measure even before Obama arrived to make his case. At least they could go through the motions of hearing him out.

Obama did not arrive empty-handed. He persuaded Democrats to drop from the package $335 million in family-planning money for Medicaid that seemed to particularly irk the Republicans. The Senate added a $70 billion patch to the Alternative Minimum Tax that many Republicans want. And $200 million to renovate the National Mall that the Republicans thought should have been dealt with separately was dropped.

But on another area of disagreement, a $500 tax credit for workers who pay payroll taxes but earn too little to pay income taxes, Obama said, "Feel free to whack me over the head, because I will not compromise on that part."

By all accounts, he listened patiently and intently to Republican gripes: The stimulus plan had too much spending, too little tax relief and added too much to the deficit. The Democrats had cut them out of the bill drafting and loaded it up with extraneous provisions.

Therein lies a problem that Obama will have to deal with. The Democrats, especially in the House, are treating the Republicans as shabbily as the Democrats were treated when the GOP was in the majority. A return to the poisonous atmosphere of the Bush years — "My way or the highway" — would be thoroughly undesirable.

We hope Obama does more of this kind of reaching out to the opposition. He didn’t make the sale this time but he likely banked plenty of good will that could be handy down the road.

4 Responses to Bipartisanship sounds nice, but seldom works

  1. Jim Shelton

    January 29, 2009 at 9:40 am

    As the President says, “we can disagree without being disagreeable”. I guess the Republicans are content to let the infrastructure continue to deteriorate…

  2. AustinRanter

    January 29, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Jim, sadly enough, the electorates’ message to the Washingtonites didn’t get through to them last November 4th.

    The internal power struggle continues as though there was no outward effort on the part of the people to clearly express this past election day that they no longer desire having a self-centered, self-serving government.

    2010 elections aren’t that far away. Let’s see just how serious We the People are. Let’s see how many deadwood incumbents are voted out.

    Our nation is in dire straits…and these Washington jerks don’t give a rat’s ass.

  3. spartacus

    January 29, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Most of the infrastructure provisions in the original bill were take out early BECAUSE Republicans always complain it’s pork; of course, they complain now there wasn’t enough infrastructure spending in the bill. This from the same crowd who sought to kill almost every single appropriation to fix our deteriorating roads, bridges, etc, insisting they were nothing but pork, or earmarks, and therefore unnecessary. What a bunch of hippocrates.

    They also insist they have the answers for fixing the economic disaster they’ve caused. Give me a break! What is their response to the crisis? Tax cuts, of course! The tax cuts they want to put forth not only won’t stimulate the economy, it’ll do what their cuts did over the last 8 years: add to the deficit. As usual, they target the wrong people. Republicans don’t get it, and I suppose they never will.

    Not one Republican voted for the stimulus bill in the House. Our Republican Representative, whom I voted against for reasons such as that and whom I tried very hard to get my mother to vote against, absolutely disgusted me as a result. Obviously he wants to be a partisan, obstructionist lemming. My mother, who is retired and on a fixed income (and a Democrat like myself), wouldn’t vote against this man because of all the good he has done for this area (Republican pork): many other Democrats felt the same way or he would’ve lost the last election. Obviously, Mr. Wolf failed to realize that he owes his reelection to those independents and even many Democrats (I know more quite a few) who chose to vote for the man, not the party, regardless of past GOP behavior, shennanigans which are exactly why I felt I HAD to vote against him. The Republican party failed to learn the lesson of the last election: note how many thought they lost because they weren’t conservative enough! Amazing, isn’t it? What they obviously failed to understand is that the American people are hurting and want something done NOW to rectify the damage their party has done to this country’s economy for the last 8 years (14 if you count when Gingrich and company took over Congress and really began to change a lot of laws for the worse). Their answer to the American people: ‘Get stuffed! We simply don’t feel the need to fix our mess, no matter the cost to you. We know what’s best.’

    This is exactly why I really despise the Republican party, and most Republicans. They just don’t give a damn.

  4. ckaye99

    January 31, 2009 at 2:30 am

    Ha ha, I watched McConnell and Boehner complaining about ALL THE OUTRAGEOUS SPENDING on Cspan the other day, and all you can do is laugh when you think about what those monkeys did in the 8 years they controlled the house and the senate; millions of viewers were watching their rantings, many of them ex Republicans I’m sure, staring at the tube in disbelief and wondering why Boehner didn’t self immolate right there and then, so thick was the hypocrisy in the air.

    Boo hoo, boo hoo – they didn’t get the tax cut they wanted! I think if they keep this up the GOP will never rise again, which will be okay by me.