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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dealing With The "Businessman Republicans"

by digby

Here's politics expert Chuck Todd talking to Chris Matthews today:

Todd: On the START treaty. Look at the Republicans who voted for it. All right. Three of them are retiring. Look at the ten that are left. It really is representative of the philosophical divide within the [Republican} party on some foreign policy and on some economic issues. But I think those ten are who the President's going to have to work with if he wants to get things through the Senate. That's going to be the ten that if he doesn't strike up relationships with and isn't able to move those ten, in a way to get his 60 votes then he's not going to make a lot of progress next year.

Matthews: It's interesting Chuck, that --- they're not all from the South. There are the two Senators from Maine, one from Alaska, Murkowski survived that primary, of course. But you have southern guys like Thad Cochran and Lamaar Alexander and Corker and Johnny Isaakson, so it's not just the usual Northeastern moderates here.

Todd: No what it is, is, and I've been trying to figure out this divide a little bit and I think it's ongoing, but it really is the old "businessman Republican." And Johnny Isaakson and Bob Corker and Lamaar Alexander and Cochran they come from that wing of the party. And in the South when they became Republicans that was the party of business. And when you come from the business wing of the party that's when you have that pragmatic streak in you a little bit.

And if there's a common denominator among that group that isn't about the more moderate nature of the Northeast. And I'll be honest, I think this White House took too long of a time... you know, this group of Senators have been sitting there for two years and I think this White House took too long in courting them and finding them. They were sitting there for two years and they voted with the president on one big issue early on and that was children's health care, all lot of these same senators were on this list. And they didn't develop this relationship. I think they probably regret it, and I think they realize it's still there to develop. And my guess is that these ten, including these ones in the south, not just the political ones in the Northeast who have what I would call "the Blue State factor" and I would go back to the business man wing of the Republican Party.

Even Matthews was able to see the little problem with that absurd thesis:

I think it's fair to say without being too condescending that the Tea Party types are not too focused on the nuances of nuclear arms control.

Todd then gibbered more nonsense about the divide between the America firsters and the Internationalists and Pat Buchanan, but seriously, that analysis is about as dumb as it gets.

First of all, The Democrats twisted themselves into pretzels over the past two years trying desperately to get Republicans to sign on to something ... anything ... and were rebuffed. In the lame duck it was certainly very big of them to finally "give in" to pass unemployment insurance and health care for 9/11 responders at Christmas time and I'm sure they'll be rewarded in heaven. And pulling in a handful of moderates to repeal DADT after a stream of military guys with salad on their chests said it needed to be done was very generous I'm sure. Passing a nuclear arms treaty that nobody had ever heard of was a huge sacrifice. But let's not kid ourselves -- the Republicans put all of those issues on the table because it meant they could kick some immigrants for the Tea Party and they could get whyat they really needed --- the tax cuts extended for two years and the budget battle and debt ceiling battles put off until next congress when they have much more control. Let's put it this way, Mitch McConnell isn't sitting in his office saying "curses, foiled again."

Paul Begala on CNN just said that the White House feels the tax cut deal gives them the authority to fight back in the next congress when they try to repeal health care and go after the education and Veterans budgets.When Blitzer asked Alex Castellanos if repealing health care really was a priority, he replied:

The priority number one for Republicans is going to be for jobs and growth. And that's what they are going to put on the table first...

One hopes the Democrats and the president will at least challenge that with a jobs and growth plan of their own, bus so far we're hearing they want to talk deficits and austerity, (which just so happens to be the GOP jobs plan, it just sounds worse.) Castellanos admitted that part of their jobs bill would the test votes throughout the year of what Gloria Borger helpfully reminded him was called the "jobs killing health care bill." Somehow, I have a feeling that they are going to enjoy putting the President in the position of having to compromise something very painful to protect his health care plan.

None of this to say that the victories aren't worthwhile or the price worth paying. I quarrel mightily with the overall strategy that left the tax cuts on the table to the very end, but when you are dealing with a Party that is perfectly willing to allow the people to suffer and die if they don't get what they want, it's tough to negotiate. You have to find something these people will accept in return and the price will be very, very high. And it was.

Going forward, if the president sees his main function as stopping health care repeal and cuts to education and Veterans benefits, then we'll have gridlock, which considering the current dynamics, may be the best we can hope for: now that the Republicans have their tax cuts, I'm afraid that the only thing left that the Republicans will consider "common ground" are cuts to the safety net.

Update: Meanwhile Dday updates on the new House rules:

Making the debt limit vote separate prevents the ability for it to be a less palatable vote for Republicans. It appears to prevent a merging of the budget resolution to fund the government in March and the debt limit. So it makes that a separate hostage-taking event.

Another part of the House rules includes “CutGo,” mandating that all spending increases get offset by cuts elsewhere and not tax increases (tax reductions would not have to be offset in this way).

Ultimately that’s going to be the legacy of the lame duck session. I think moving forward on all these bills in the lame duck was great. But the budget hostage crisis will be the inevitable result of keeping taxes low, failing to make appropriations for the full fiscal year and not raising the debt limit. And it’s going to result in a lot of pain for a lot of struggling people. The President could at least limit the damage by refusing to sign any bill that would hurt the economy (another way of saying reducing aggregate demand), but I’m not sanguine that he’ll choose to do that.

Update II: Speaking of the health care bill, Ezra Klein reports:

The Senate passed the Continuing Resolution 79-16 this afternoon. Another way of saying that: The Senate voted to defund the implementation of both health-care reform and financial-regulation reform....

Republicans had been talking about attacking the health-reform law by defunding it, but few thought they'd succeed without a fight. The assumption was that Democrats would shut down the government before they let Republicans take that money. But as it happened, there was no fight at all. The omnibus spending bill collapsed, and the continuing resolution compromise was reached within a few days. Most senators probably don't even know the implications their vote had for the implementation of bills passed over the past year

His colleague at the Post Jennifer Rubin says:

I don't see how Democrats could have missed the implications of the defeat of the omnibus for ObamaCare. The aide, with obvious relish, dismissed the idea that Democrats in effect missed this one. He told me, "I think senators knew there was funding in the omni. That makes it all the sweeter: [Senate Democrats] would have had to force a fight to spend more and fund a bill that half the country not only hates, but wants to defund."

If this was all a secret, it was a poorly kept one. Republican leadership offices blasted out e-mails and press releases to activists and members of Congress warning that the omnibus included a billion dollars to fund ObamaCare. Republicans talked about it on the floor. I don't see how anyone voting, on either side of the aisle, could have missed this. Liberals might not have wanted to highlight it, but that's different than being unaware.

How did Democrats wind up in this fix? A GOP operative and former Senate staffer e-mails me that "after the omnibus collapsed, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid didn't have an alternative. If conservatives are feeling bad about START, they should be really happy about this. With the new Congress in January, the GOP will be in a strong position on fighting ObamaCare."

All I can say is that I'm really relieved they got DADT done (which was made possible by the collapse of the omnibus) and Obama got unemployment extended for a year because I can't see any possible way forward in this next congress for anything even close to that happening. They got in just under the wire.

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