Caucus Of One: The Cult Of Bipartisanship Fails Again

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: you can’t trust Republicans to negotiate in good faith.

Congressional Democrats should have learned that lesson after negotiations on the economic stimulus package, where they bent over backwards to accommodate Republican demands and got all of 3 GOP votes for their effort.

And yet, some folks just don’t learn. Montana Sen. Max Baucus held up health care reform for weeks in order to capitulate to GOP demands and craft a ‘bipartisan’ bill. The reason conservatives could use their astroturfed townhall mobs to hijack the health care debate was because the Baucus caucus insisted on pushing off health care reform in the name of ‘ ‘bipartisanship’

Well, today Baucus released his long-awaited bill in all of it’s compromised, watered-down, capitulated glory.  And how did it fare among the Republicans it was supposed to win over?

Well…

Gang of Six Republicans say no to Baucus bill — for now

Senate Republican sources close to Grassley and Enzi — and in the case of Olympia Snowe, the senator herself — tell CNN they still have concerns that have not been addressed that range from taxpayer funding of abortion, to illegal immigration, to affordability of the health coverage this new law would require.

[…]

[W]hen the Senate Finance Chairman unveils his bill, all indications are he will be doing it without the support of Republicans he has spent hundreds of hours negotiating with.

[Emphasis mine]

That’s right–Max Baucus’ long-awaited compromise bill won exactly zero Republican votes.  Despite all of Baucus’ efforts, his plan has just as much Republican support as any of the other Democratic reform bills currently in Congress.

And it’s not even a good bill! Baucus’ plan has no public option–offering  a weak co-op program instead–and has some absolutely terrible provisions, such as the idiotic and self-defeating ‘free rider’ policy which, among other things, penalizes employers for hiring low-income workers. The Baucus bill is currently being savaged by both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.

In other words, the cult of bipartisanship has failed once again.  And this time, it ate up weeks of precious time and wrought havoc on the debate over health care reform.

When will Democrats finally learn that Congressional Republicans are operating in bad faith? When will they learn that, no matter how much you bend over backwards, the GOP is just not going to get on board with anything they try to do.

That’s what the GOP does–they hound Democrats to water down their legislation until it’s completely ineffective, then they vote against the bill they can hang it around the Dems’  necks when it inevitably fails.

No Democratic health care reform plan is going to win significant Republican votes, period.  So instead of trying to win over votes that they’ll never get, Congressional Democrats should focus on putting together the best bill possible. Better to pass good health care reform by the skin of its teeth than pass bad health care reform by, well, the exact same margin.

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