Despite all the talks and negotiations and concessions and bending over backwards, it looks like the Republicans are going to oppose the economic stimulus package:
Hours before a meeting with President Obama, House Republican leaders sought to rally opposition Tuesday to a White House-backed economic stimulus measure with an $825 billion price tag.
Several officials said that Reps. John Boehner of Ohio, the GOP leader, and Eric Cantor of Virginia, his second-in-command, delivered the appeal at a closed-door meeting of the Republican rank and file. Both men said the legislation contains too much wasteful spending that will not help the economy recover from its worst nosedive since the Great Depression, the officials added.
First, the low-hanging fruit: why should any of us listen to the Republicans? Are we really going to trust the guys who drove us into this ditch to get us out? Thanks, but no thanks.
Second, the more important issue here is the negotiating strategy being used by the Republicans, which I expect to see a lot more of in the future. At first, Republicans pledged to work with Democrats to craft legislation. But then Republicans demanded the bill include more of policy A, so Democrats included policy A in the bill. And then they had a problem with policy B, so Democrats agreed to drop policy B. And then they suddenly wanted policy C included, too, and so on and so fourth. Then, in the end, the GOP is opposing the bill anyway, meaning that it will pass Congress with a lot of Democratic support and very little Republican support.
Thus, the Republicans ensure that the Democrats end up being held responsible for passing an ineffective bill that they watered down and rendered ineffective in the first place. The next step will be for the GOP to turn around and blame Democrats when the bill fails and the problem remains unsolved.
At some point, Democrats have to stop giving in. At some point, Democrats have to stop making concessions. At some point, Democrats have to realize that–sadly–the Republicans aren’t interested in building a good piece of legislation. They want to stuff the bill full of giveaways to their supporters and donors. They want the bill to fail so they can deny the Democrats a political success, even if it hurts the country in the process. At some point, Democrats need to realize that Republicans are acting out of bad faith and that–for the time being, anyway–they shouldn’t bother with anything more than token bipartisanship.
So I hope President Obama goes into that meeting with Congressional Republicans and tells them that enough is enough. I hope he says that he has given them more than enough on this bill, and that he isn’t going to cut any more deals. If it means we has to pass the bill on a party-line vote, so be it–I’d rather Democrats get credit for passing a bill that works than Democrats get the blame for passing a worthless bill the GOP mangled.
Yes, that would open the door to GOP complaints about Obama’s lack of bipartisanship. But what they need to understand–and what I hope President Obama already understands–is that “bipartisanship” doesn’t mean “Democrats bend backwards to appease Republican demands.” If the GOP is going to act in bad faith, then no piece of legislation will ever truly be bipartisan and we should all just drop the pretense already.
In the end, the American people won’t care whether or not the bill is bipartisan–they’ll care whether or not it works. President Obama and the Democrats should never lose sight of that: if passing effective legislation means doing it over the objections of the Republican minority, then so be it. Our country’s future is too important for these political games; if the GOP is going to insist on playing them, then the Democratic majority should simply pass legislation on their own. Maybe getting steamrolled a few times will teach the GOP to get serious about governing our country well.
UPDATE: And the game continues:
Republicans will appeal to President Obama today to make changes to the House bill, holding out the possibility they will still support the final package.
So Republicans are saying that, if Obama just makes a few more changes to the bill, there’s a chance they could support it. Of course, that’s what they said about a host of other changes that Obama and the Democrats have already agreed to; we know that, even if Obama makes those changes, Republicans will just find some other reason to vote against the bill.
UPDATE II: The wheel keeps turning:
Republican lawmakers are raising concerns that ACORN, the low-income advocacy group under investigation for voter registration fraud, could be eligible for billions in aid from the economic stimulus proposal working its way through the House.
House Republican Leader John Boehner issued a statement over the weekend noting that the stimulus bill wending its way through Congress provides $4.19 billion for “neighborhood stabilization activities.”