In his speech to Congress last week, President Obama reminded lawmakers that if policymakers “act as one nation and one people, we have it within our power to meet this challenge.”

The problem, of course, is that Republicans really don’t want to act as one nation and one people.

House Republicans may pass bits and pieces of President Barack Obama’s jobs plan, but behind the scenes, some Republicans are becoming worried about giving Obama any victories — even on issues the GOP has supported in the past.

And despite public declarations about finding common ground with Obama, some Republicans are privately grumbling that their leaders are being too accommodating with the president.

“Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?” said one senior House Republican aide who requested anonymity to discuss the matter freely.

For all of the debate over what motivates Republicans on Capitol Hill, could this quote be any clearer? GOP goals have nothing to do with boosting the economy or creating jobs, and everything to do with undermining the president during a crisis.

The correct answer to this aide’s question — Americans get back to work is more important than partisan politics — never seems to enter the picture.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the NRCC, added that no one should assume congressional Republicans will support policies, just because “we’ve been for them” in the recent past.

No, of course not.

The muted response in GOP circles to the president’s speech and the American Jobs Act led to some speculation that this process may not be awful. Obama presented a plan with plenty of Republican ideas, and GOP leaders struck a generally conciliatory tone, suggesting Republicans, if only for their own sake, may want to pass something to prove they’re still capable of governing.

But so long as rank-and-file GOP lawmakers prioritize hurting the president above all, meaningful progress is very likely impossible.

The Hill, meanwhile, reports that House Republicans are still pondering how to use the tools of government to improve the economy when they believe it’s impossible to use the government to improve the economy.

If Americans wanted Washington to focus on improving the economy, they made some very poor choices in November 2010.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.