Tuesday, March 16, 2010

So, What's Bipartisanship Again?

It has become a cliché that, to the mainstream media, when the Democrats are out of power "bipartisanship" means that some of them break ranks with their party and vote with Republicans, but when the Democrats have a majority "bipartisanship" means that they literally do whatever it takes to get Republicans to sign onto a bill. Even if the Republicans strong-arm their moderates into adhering to the party line while declaring, "No part of that bill is satisfactory, you must scrap the entire bill and start over."

It's no surprise the Republican operatives like Mark Thiessen enjoy the resulting atmosphere. Kicking the "former Bush speechwriters contest" back into full gear, Thiessen complains,
Democrats are in a tight spot on health-care reform. The only way they got the legislation though the Senate was with a series of sweetheart deals -- including the now infamous "Louisiana Purchase," "Gator-aid," and "Cornhusker kickback." Those deals won the support of recalcitrant senators. But now they're now the biggest obstacle President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi face as they make their final health-care push.
You know what it would take to get rid of all of those deals? Three or four Republican Senators who had the maturity to say, "We recognize that this bill is going to pass, and that it's childish to demand that you start from scratch, but if you cut those special deals out of the bill we'll promise to vote for cloture and to support the final bill."

From day one it has been Republican obstructionism that enabled individual Senators to demand the special favors of which Thiessen complains. When any Senator can be "vote number 60" of the sixty needed to effect cloture, any Senator can demand concessions. Add a few Republicans to the mix, that power vanishes and so do the deals.

You know what else the Republicans could do, right now? They could put their money (or maybe I should say "our money") where Thiessen's mouth is, proposing legislation that would strip those deals out of the reform package. Or by agreeing not to filibuster a Senate bill that includes the fixes required by the House, on the condition that the special deals be stripped out. But even if we assume that Thiessen's professed convictions are genuine, that his sudden concern for pork is inspired by true concerns about such dealing as opposed to his party's fall from power, it does not appear that any sitting Republican Senator shares his convictions - or is it enough courage in his convictions to do what's right for the country instead of toeing the party line.

In a much- and deservedly ridiculed editorial, David Brooks whines that if the Democrats pass a Senate bill carefully tailored to the rules of reconciliation to supplement the bill already passed by the Senate, it will somehow mean the end of the comity that he admits no longer exists in the Senate, resulting in "rule by simple majority... for everything, now and forever." Accepting for the moment the absurdity of the argument, if in fact the Senate's future hangs in the balance, all the more reason for one single, solitary Republican to stand up and say, "The future of this institution is more important than trying to harm the Democratic Party and President - I'll vote for cloture." I know, I know.... Way too much to ask.

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