Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not a Single Republican

The House passed the $800 billion stimulus bill today 244-188. Not one Republican voted for the bill. So despite heroic efforts by our new president to reach out to Republicans in Congress, including eliminating provisions offensive to Republicans and adding a higher proportion of tax cuts than Democrats wanted, not one Republican would in the end support the bill. I heard a lot of criticism of the bill from Republicans around the margins, but hardly any to the basic concept of a massive stimulus bill that consists of a combination of tax cuts, aid to state governments, and infrastructure spending.

What kind of message are the Republicans trying to send? Are they telling the Democrats not to bother with any efforts of bi-partisanship, because despite such efforts, none of them will support the end result? Are they trying to tell the American people to blame the Democrats if anything goes wrong, because they have chosen not to play a constructive role in the government? Would they prefer that the legislation passed by Congress not contain any Republican input, since the Democrats don't need Republican votes to pass legislation, and the Republicans are not going to support anything the Democrats propose even if Democrats attempt to accommodate their views? As the New York Times points out, the House Republicans' actions today are reminiscent of their similar failure to support Bill Clinton's economic package when he first came to office. Then too, the president offered a balanced package of economic reforms. But because it contained tax increases, the Republicans en masse would not support it. Instead they issued dire warnings about how Clinton's bill would send the economy into a tailspin. Even though they were completely wrong in those predictions, the Republicans' negativity nevertheless led them to short term political gains, if not to any significant policy successes. The Republicans in the House appear to be following the same playbook today. Should the president continue to try to include them, or should he give in to their apparent wishes, and treat them as irrelevant to the process?

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