With eyes wide open

WITH EYES WIDE OPEN…. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) acknowledged yesterday that the Senate would not vote on health care reform before the August recess. He told reporters, “Working with the Republicans, one of the things that they asked for was to have more time. I don’t think it’s unreasonable.”

That’s certainly generous of the Majority Leader, but whether or not “more time” is “reasonable” is dependent entirely on why the minority wants the delay. If it’s because serious, sincere lawmakers feel like they can improve legislation and get it passed, great. If it’s because the GOP is playing a partisan game and plans to use delays to kill reform, there’s no reason for Reid to characterize this as “reasonable.”

Consider Sen. James Inhofe’s (R) remarks this week. The right-wing Oklahoman appeared on one far-right radio show this week and explained, “[F]or those out there who … would like to have something optimistic to look at, we are plotting the demise on a week by week basis of where Bill Clinton was in 1993 and where Obama is today and his demise ratio is greater than Clinton’s was in 1993.”

Appearing on another conservative radio show, Inhofe went on to say that health care reform “is life threatening,” and killing it could help GOP candidates.

“I think, you know, I just hope the President keeps talking about it, keeps trying to rush it through. We can stall it. And that’s going to be a huge gain for those of us who want to turn this thing over in the 2010 election.”

Now, the opposition party is supposed to oppose the majority agenda. They’re not usually quite as callous as Inhofe, but if Republicans want to use delays to kill reform, and then try to capitalize in the midterms, there’s an obvious coherence to the strategy.

What’s worth remembering, though, is that the Democratic majority keeps trying to negotiate with Republicans. One GOP senator says his party is “plotting the demise” of the reform effort, which will be a “huge gain” in elections. Another GOP senator is plotting the president’s “Waterloo,” so he can “break” Obama. Another GOP senator concedes that at least half of the party’s opposition to reform is partisan politics. Another GOP senator, deeply involved in the negotiations, boasted that he’s so offended by the idea of a public option, “I take pride with being an obstructionist.”

“Working with the Republicans, one of the things that they asked for was to have more time. I don’t think it’s unreasonable,” Reid said. Perhaps, given the plain and transparent strategy at play, the problem is “working with the Republicans.”