When my progressive friends ask, “What have we gotten out of Obama’s ‘post-partisan’ shtick?” my answer has been, “You’re using the wrong tense. The question is, what will we get?”
My theory has been that Obama was going to make himself look completely reasonable, giving Republicans the choice of giving him a win by compromising or making themselves look unreasonable by not compromising – and thereby giving Obama justification for playing rough procedurally and passing a purely Democratic bill will only Democratic votes.
On health care, the Republicans have decided to stand pat. And the polls show that the public has seen that; Obama is perceived as having tried to compromise, and the Republicans as not having tried to compromise.
“In reacting to President Obama’s health care proposals, do you think the Republicans aer generally offering constructive criticism, or are they being obstructionist for mostly political reasons?
A narrower majority believes that “Obama and the Democrats” are trying to compromise; I suspect that the numbers would be better if the question were asked about Obama alone.
On cue, The Hill reports:
President Barack Obama this week has been laying the foundation for Senate Democrats to use a controversial budget maneuver to pass healthcare reform.
By offering Republicans olive branches during his address to Congress on Wednesday, Obama has set up a win-win situation. If GOP lawmakers embrace compromise, a healthcare bill would pass Congress easily. But the more likely scenario is that Republicans will continue to oppose Obama’s plan, and the president later this fall will be able to note he tried to strike a deal with the GOP but could not.
That will set up a Democratic argument that Senate leaders have been forced to use a partisan budget tool known as reconciliation to pass a health bill through the Senate by a simple majority, instead of 60 votes. Under the budget plan they passed earlier this year, Democrats could invoke the reconciliation process on Oct. 15.
Republicans contend that the use of reconciliation would be at odds with Obama’s call for bipartisanship during his 2008 presidential campaign. But Obama has countered that argument in recent days by forcefully resurrecting the anti-Washington rhetoric that got him elected.
In Cincinnati on Monday, Obama blamed the “usual bickering in Washington” for the “funk” supporters of healthcare reform were enduring. And in a discussion with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., on Tuesday, Obama said “there are a lot of politicians like that who, all they’re thinking about is just, ‘How do I get reelected?’ and so they never actually get anything done.”
Then on Wednesday night, Obama sought to portray his health reform plan as one that contains both Republican and Democratic ideas.
“The time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed,” Obama said. “Now is the season for action.”
The GOP, by joining hands with the teabag crowd, has dug itself in so deep that compromise is almost impossible. In retrospect, I think this will look like one of the all-time great mouse-traps.