Understanding ‘bipartisanship’

UNDERSTANDING ‘BIPARTISANSHIP’…. As recently as 2006, when Republican policymakers controlled the levers of power, it was the duty of elected officials to stick to their principles and work on the agenda they presented to voters. In 2010, with Democrats controlling the levers of power, it is the duty of elected officials to compromise on their principles, scale back the agenda they presented to voters, and govern in such a way as to make the rejected and discredited minority party happy.

Take health care policy, for example, the signature domestic policy effort of the Democratic Party. For about a year now, Dems have been making concessions and moving its reform plan closer to the middle. Medicare for all was considered, and taken off the table. Expanded Medicare eligibility was considered, and then taken off the table. A public option was considered, and then taken off the table. All the while, conservative Republicans were unwilling to make literally any concessions at all.

As of today, the latest GOP offer to Democrats is pretty straightforward: the “only” health care plan Republicans will consider is the Republican plan.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has been hinting at this, but made the point quite explicitly this morning. Cantor’s office told Greg Sargent “there’s not much to talk about” with the White House unless Democratic policymakers completely “scrap their government takeover” and agree to embrace the Republican policy in its entirety.

Republicans believe the status quo is unacceptable, but so is any health reform package that spends money we don’t have or raises taxes on small businesses and working families in a recession. To that point, House Republicans have offered the only plan , that will lower health care costs, which is what the President said was the goal at the start of this debate.

So, “bipartisanship” is defined as giving Republicans exactly what they want — period.

Remember, as recently as September, Cantor said he agrees with “80%” of the Democratic reform plan. Now, he’s willing to tolerate none of it.

I do hope the David Broders of the world are paying attention, noticing why bipartisanship is impossible with congressional Republicans who are completely out of control.

The incessant talk about “bipartisanship” is itself suspect — I tend to think a governing majority should be able to give their agenda a shot, whether or not the minority approves — but even if we put that aside, how, exactly, are responsible officials supposed to work with a rival who demands nothing short of 100% satisfaction, despite being part of a failed minority?

Post Script: By the way, Cantor has never been the sharpest crayon in the box, so it may be unfair to ask him to back up his own rhetoric with substance, but maybe the next time he’s on TV, someone can ask him to explain what he thinks a “government takeover” is.

He keeps using that phrase, but I don’t think it means what he thinks it means.