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McCain demands concessions – sorry but we tried that

January 22, 2010

McCain may demand bipartisanship but he needs to take a good hard look at his own party before he accuses the left of not working with everyone else.

I know that the last few days have been a wake up call for the Democrats. There is room for improvement and if anything the Democrats need to learn nothing is sacred, you need to work hard to appease the voters and you need to listen.

But the one thing that has really gotten my back up is the sudden over-confidence, the sheer arrogance that is coming from the Right based on one win. Lets not forget this is an important win, but at the same time it is one win. And it is not, as some would like us to believe, the end game for Obama, or that people should be pushing Scott Brown for President before he has signed up for the Senate.

And to add to that Senator John McCain, who is looking to push himself back into the American psyche as he begins a new re-election strategy, has stepped up to the plate and suggested that the Democrats have not tried to work with the Republicans over healthcare and that under Obama there has been the most partisanship there has ever been.

Speaking to Fox News Sunday he said:

“There has been no effort that I know of — of serious across the table negotiations — such as I have engaged in with other administrations. And that was the commitment that the president made.”

It isn’t hard to see why a lot of Democrats are finding that one hard to swallow.

If you take health care, which is what McCain was asked about, and what has become the overriding topic of discussion across the media since Brown’s win, there has been many attempts at bipartisanship by the left. Obama with his, the 60 lead in the Senate could have easily have puit forward his bill and damn to hell any discussions with the right. But this was not what he wanted and nor what he had said would be his way in his administration.

From the outset with the negotiations for the Bill, a “Gang of Six” was formed. Six Republicans and six Democrats who were selected to work on a truly bipartisan bill. They included:

  • Max Baucus (D)
  • Kent Conrad (D)
  • Jeff Bingaman (D)
  • Charles Grassley (R)
  • Olympia Snowe (R)
  • Michael Enzi (R)

But from the outset problems appeared. Michael Enzi admitted to a town hall meeting n Wyoming that he was working against the Bill:

“If I hadn’t been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care,”

And his voice joined other prominent Republicans who during the summer of 2009 as they did the town hall rounds, admitted that their only interest in the bill was to kill it, and they didn’t care what was in it, nor if they read it.

GOP’er Jim Inhofe, who had already stated he was willing to promote blocking reform said in August 2009:

“I don’t have to read it, or know what’s in it. I’m going to oppose it anyways,”

Even Grassley kept upping his demands on the bill. According to the Plum Line:

Grassley added a fifth condition, telling NPR he couldn’t back a “pay or play” mandate requiring employers to cover workers or chip into a national coverage fund:

“No public option, no pay-or-play, no things that are going to lead to any rationing of health care, no interference with doctor-patient relationships, and tort reform.”

This is a relatively minor shift, but the larger pattern is obvious. First Grassley raised the number of votes he wants for a truly bipartisan Senate bill to 80. More recently, Dems handed Grassley a win, nixing the public option from the Senate bill.

Grassley’s response? He endorsed the “death panels,” then said Dems had pushed him away from the table. Then he laid down yet more conditions for GOP support: A smaller bill, and a public repudiation by Obama of the public plan, to reassure GOPers of his bipartisan good faith!

Obstructionism has been rife from the outset, as the Republican Senators used every trick in the book to delay the bill being read, and even blocked their own amendments. At one point, in December 2009 they even tried to get the Senate to read over 700 pages of the Bill in an effort to obstruct. Republican Jim DeMint even tweeted in glee about it:

Screenshot of Jim DeMint twitter calling for any method to obstruct bill

Senator Dick Durbin (Democrat) said;

“This is a strategy by the Republican leadership which not only endangers the passage of health care reform, it endangers the enactment of the Department of Defense appropriations bill;”

after the suggested delay put back scheduled votes on other bills including an important military funding bill.

The Huffington Post at the beginning of December, posted an “obstructionist manual” penned by Republican Senator Judd Gregg. In it he suggests various ways of bringing delay to the bill.

“He highlights the use of hard quorum calls for any motion to proceed, as opposed to a far quicker unanimous consent provision. He reminds his colleagues that, absent unanimous consent, they can force the Majority Leader to read any “full-text substitute amendment.” And when it comes to offering amendments to the health care bill, the New Hampshire Republican argues that it is the personification of “full, complete, and informed debate,” to “offer an unlimited number of amendments — germane or non-germane — on any subject.”

It is understandable that Senator Harry Reid (D) who has spearheaded Obama’s reform, was angry. His spokesman Jim Manley charged:

“Just in time for the holidays, here it is in black and white, the Republicans’ manual for stall, stop and delay, and what do the American people get? — higher costs and less coverage. What kind of present is that?”

And if you would like to read that obstructionist manual in full:

And yet John McCain suggests that it is the Left that have not wanted to work with the Right and have been partisan over the health care bill.

This blatant fabrication is proof of the arrogance of the Right, one they may wish to counter if they wish to affirm to their base, or new base, the Tea Party movement. But then as the Tea Party movement has worked on a platform of kill the bill, they show more interest in no bill than working to insure a bill. Now I admit that without the public option the current health care bill seems little more than a bill of concessions and a mish mash of ideas, but at the same time, how can one see seriousness in McCain’s calls for bipartisanship if his own party have shown vocally otherwise over the past year?

Health care has not been the only place that the Right have attempted to obstruct and delay. Many of Obama’s nominations have all been delayed by the right, under a team headed by Jim DeMint. And although some have passed through – eventually, some have fallen by the wayside. One needs to take note of the recent stepping down of TSA nominee Erroll Southers who suggested that political games surrounding his nomination contributed to his stepping down:

“I am not a politician. I’m a counter-terrorism expert,” said Southers, assistant chief of airport police in Los Angeles. “They took an apolitical person and politicized my career.” (LATimes)

The accusations came from DeMint who suggested Southers would use unions to veto decisions:

“Mr. Southers was never forthcoming about his intentions to give union bosses veto power over security decisions at our airports,” (LATimes)

This is just some of the ways that the GOP have sought to obstruct, delay and be partisan against the current admin. They would like us to believe otherwise, as John McCain stated and was quoted at the beginning of this article.

The Democrats would do well to remember that the 59 votes they have is still enough as evidenced by previous administrations. According to the Wall Street Journal, 50 Votes Can Still Deliver:

Although Senate rules require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, only once in the past 40 years, until last year, has one party held that number of seats, when Democrats controlled that many in the post-Watergate period. Recent presidents managed to pass sweeping bills with smaller majorities or even when their party was in the minority.

Mr. Reagan, for example, pushed through a major revision of the tax code in 1986 by working with then-Sen. Bill Bradley (D., N.J.). President Bill Clinton enacted a big crime bill in 1994 and a welfare overhaul two years later. Mr. Bush pushed through tax cuts and his No Child Left Behind law. President Barack Obama won a $787 billion stimulus bill early last year when Democrats held 58 seats.

No one wants to be seen “pushing” through a vote. This will given the current climate in America only serve to further sway the electorate against them, but one must bear in mind, the Republicans are happy to be courting the “oppose the Democrats” group and if they wish to gain will continue to court it. And as Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research says:

“It’s a relatively new story that it has become acceptable to filibuster everything in sight,”

The right are not interested I believe, in true bipartisanship. There has been too much over the past year that has shown them to be anything but wishing to work with the left.

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