Obama's Recovery and Reinvestment plan passed in the House without one Republican vote despite Obama's attempts at bipartisanship. So what does this portend? He needs 60 votes in the Senate to prevent a filibuster but there are only 58 Democrats. If Al Frankin of Minnesota were seated, it would be 59 but still too few unless one Republican voted with the Democrats. What do you think are the chances of that? By the way they're still counting and recounting the votes in Minnesota so they haven't declared Democrat Al Franken a winner there yet. So far barely 10 days into Obama's Presidency, the Republicans have done everything they can to turn debates in the House and Senate rancorous. Despite much Republican outrage the SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Plan) bill passed yesterday. Nine Republican Senators voted with the Democrats. Will Obama be able to count on some of these Senators to vote with the Democrats on other legislation or will they tow the line if the Republicans decide to filibuster thus allowing Republicans to block any significant legislation?
The big question is will they filibuster the Recovery and Reinvestment plan in the Senate? Despite majorities in both the House and Senate and the Presidency, Republicans could hold the President hostage by virtue of the filibuster. They could demand radical changes in the Recovery and Reinvestment plan before they would vote for it. They have already come up with their own plan - more of the same - tax cuts for the rich. This has been tried for 30 years with the result that we are in the current economic impasse. Even with the Democrats firmly in power, will the Republicans try to run the legislative process? You bet they will. My prediction is that Obama will not be able to pick off the one or two Republicans needed to vote for cloture after a Republican filibuster and in order to pass the Recovery and Reinvestment plan on anything approaching his own terms or the terms that the top experts think are needed to prevent an economic calamity of earth shaking proportions.
And this is what the Republicans will do to every piece of legislation the Democrats attempt to pass. This is what they did to every piece of legislation for the last two years of the Bush administration despite Democratic control of the House and Senate. Will the leopards change their spots? They simply filibustered everything the Democrats proposed in the Senate thereby rendering them impotent. Or as an alternative they let Bush veto it. They don't have that alternative now but the filibuster is just as effective as the veto. What makes anyone think they won't go this route now? Because of Obama's political capital? Forget it. If you want to call this obstructionism, so be it but it is just the Republican plan to make the Obama administration a flop and a failure. They will hold him hostage until he caves and accedes to a bill with a Republican stamp on it and then talk about bipartisanship. This is more or less what Clinton did. He allowed them to bully him into passing their agenda.
The Democrats and Obama in particular are too nice. The Republicans are already playing hardball right out of the gate. Using the filibuster rule, they will do everything they can to insure that Obama will fail under the able leadership of Rush Limbaugh, the unofficial head of the Republican party. Take the SCHIP bill passed yesterday in the Senate but not without a show of rancor and obstreperousness by the Senate Republicans.
This from the Washington Post:
But the political victory may come at a price. The rancorous debate -- on a program that once basked in bipartisan popularity -- raised doubts about whether the two parties can unite to pass broader health reform later this year, several moderate Republicans said.
"This is a very unfortunate beginning," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa). The top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, a stalwart supporter of the program, said he was "disgusted" by the way Democratic leaders handled the debate. "It does not bode well for cooperative work in the coming months," he said. But Grassley emphasized that he did not blame Baucus for the change in substance and style.
As the vote came just one day after the House passed an $819 billion economic stimulus package without a single Republican vote, some longtime lawmakers questioned the president's ability to forge a new era of cooperation in the capital.
"If they wanted a nice signing ceremony that showed bipartisanship and carried through on the president's language, this would have been a good vehicle to do it on," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).
"We carried a lot of water and took a lot of flak" for that stand, Hatch said. To push through a different version now is "not only unfair," he said, "but a slap in the face to those of us who worked so strongly with our friends on the other side."
The bill approved last night closely resembles the versions many Republicans supported in the past, countered Democrats.
GOP lawmakers objected to the new provision allowing states to enroll certain legal immigrants. Until now, many immigrants' families have been forced to wait five years for coverage.
"The bottom line is: This is a debate about children's health coverage," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). "This is not a debate about immigration."
In more than two days of debate -- in unusually personal and emotional language -- Republicans expressed a sense of betrayal that Democrats had dropped the 2007 compromise.
"We could have had 95 votes," Hatch said. "That would have sent a tremendous, tremendous message that hasn't been sent around here for a long time."
Both sides had hoped, and even predicted, that early bipartisan action on children's coverage would demonstrate that Washington's elected officials can cooperate on critical issues such as health care.
"This is on something for which there is so much agreement and something that almost no one argues about," said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, which represents 300 large employers. "For the tough things like real national health-care reform, it unfortunately portends a really rocky road."
Compared to the daunting task of overhauling the entire U.S. health system, the debate on the children's health program should have been easy, said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine).
"You would have thought this issue would have been clear sailing on both sides," she said.
Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, agreed that "we're not seeing bipartisanship" but said she is optimistic that the public's overwhelming desire for improvement in the health system will force the two parties to the bargaining table. "People are talking about how to do it as opposed to whether to do it," she said.
So what does this portend? Republican debate in the House over the Recovery and Reinvestment plan was rancorous too with the Republicans coming up with their own plan that supported tax cuts and little else. This they claimed would create twice the number of jobs as the Obama plan at half the cost. If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell, but the Republicans argued vociferously and with a straight face. The bottom line is that they don't care what Obama thinks; they don't care what the majority of the American people want. They are out only to please their constituency - southern whites - who take pride and pleasure in denying a black President anything he might want. And besides they are in the pockets of corporate America, who benefited from the policies of the Bush administration, whose interests it served. Corporate America probably would be against anything that Obama and the Democrats wanted to do despite their ostensible control of both the legislative and executive branches of government.
Republican members of the House voted among themselves to vote as a block in opposing Obama's Recovery and Reinvestment plan even before Obama, in an attempt at bipartisanship, went to the House to talk to them about it! Long story short: there is no reciprocal bipartisanship coming from Republicans. So how long will Obama play "nice guy" to the Republicans' "screw you" attitiude? He shouldn't be under any illusions that Republicans in the House and Senate want to do what's right or help him out or help out the American people even in the face of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Therefore, he needs to come up with a Plan B - what to do if the Republicans try to block every piece of legislation he proposes. Otherwise, Obama will simply spin his wheels for two years and become an irrelevancy. Their only possible way out of this dilemma is to attack the filibuster rule itself using the nuclear option. This is a way around the filibuster rule that the Republicans themselves proposed using recently but in the final denouement didn't have to. Obama needs to get tough. The Republicans are going to give him nothing. They will pressure him - like they did Clinton - to "triangulate," to accept bills which are watered down and adhere more to Republican philosophy than to that of the Democrats.
The Republicans have controlled government for 30 years with the exception of Clinton who governed as Republican "light," and the Repubs are bound and determined to turn Obama into another Clinton. Obama seems like the typical nice guy Democrat who is eager to please the Repubs and they are eager to force him to please them, to show him who is top dog. In other words the Republicans will try to make Obama their bitch, to boss him around using all their stratagems and perfidy. Obama better get wise to the Repubs quickly or he doesn't have a chance. What is his Plan B? Just trying to please Republicans by watering down his bills so they are indistinguishable from the legislative tripe that has come out of Washington for the last 30 years? He needs to put the Repubs in their place. If not now, when? They don't represent the interests of the American people, not even of the southern American people who vote against their own interests because Rush Limbaugh tells them that's what they should do.
Obama better get it together. This is going to be a fight every step of the way. The Republicans will give him nothing. They will not compromise except after he has given them everything they want and has done what's acceptable to corporate America and their lobbyists. This is a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic party and for the heart and soul of America. If Obama can't govern as he wants to, as a majority of Americans want him to, as the experts on economic policy want him to, with majorities in both the House and Senate, then America is lost, and we're at the mercy of the Republicans and corporate America, and the USA will become a full blown third world fascist country.