CASUAL DISREGARD OF BIPARTISANSHIP…. Last week, President Obama announced six recess appointments to fill a variety of executive branch vacancies. These nominations were approved by the respective Senate committees, and if brought to the floor, each of the six would have been confirmed, most with more than 60 votes.
But the response from the right, at least for a day, was pretty angry. Part of the displeasure was for the obvious reasons — Republicans didn’t like these six nominees and disapproved of the White House circumventing the Senate.
There was another angle to this, though. For some conservatives, there was anger because the recess appointments were themselves evidence of the White House rejecting post-midterm comity. The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin put it this way:
On Wednesday, Obama shed any pretense of bipartisanship in making six recess appointments…. [T]he lesson for the GOP here may be to refrain from offering too many open hands to an administration only too eager to slap them and demonstrate disdain for a co-equal branch of government.
As a substantive matter, much of Rubin’s analysis was misguided, but the larger point is important: there’s a certain pressure from the D.C. establishment being imposed on the White House regarding expectations of partisanship. President Obama, we’re told, is supposed to take steps to prove his commitment to working with Republicans. The recess appointments were bad, the GOP said, not just because of the specific officials, but because recess appointments are partisan, and Obama isn’t supposed to do partisan things anymore.
Indeed, over the weekend, the New York Times ran a piece from Harvard economist N. Gregory Mankiw, a former adviser to George W. Bush, reminding the president that he “really will have to be bipartisan.”
But notice that there are no related expectations for Republicans. Any political gesture from the White House that might rub the GOP the wrong way draws cries of “partisanship!” from Obama’s detractors, but the very first major push from the new House majority is to eliminate the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, even though Republicans know their bill won’t pass Congress.
At this point, then, shouldn’t the political establishment be chastising Republicans for their casual disregard of bipartisanship? Where are the Broderesque columns, upbraiding Boehner & Co. for picking a pointless partisan fight right out of the gate? Why are there no condemnations about Republicans poisoning the well at the start of the new Congress and shedding any pretense of bipartisanship?
The push to repeal health care reform is about as boldly partisan a move as Republicans could make. It’s an in-your-face style of aggression, targeting the signature domestic policy initiative of the Democratic Party of this generation. This is the kind of move that sends a signal — the GOP isn’t serious about a constructive relationship with the White House and congressional Democrats, and it doesn’t care.
And with this in mind, the hand-wringing about whether President Obama is doing enough to demonstrate a commitment to compromise seems fairly absurd.