Use Bipartisanship To Pass An Agenda
Obama and Joe Biden will "turn the page on the ugly partisanship in Washington, so we can bring Democrats and Republicans together to pass an agenda that works for the American people." -- Springfield, Ill.-- CQ Transcripts
By ASHLIE RODRIGUEZ
If Thursday’s health care summit fails to produce a passable bill, President Obama is preparing to sidestep criticism over the breakdown of his bipartisan overtures and pin the gridlock on Republicans, reports say.
The strategy illustrates the state of bipartisanship in Obama’s second year in office. The health care overhaul has proved extraordinarily divisive, and it’s dominated the agenda since early last year, with Democrats accusing the GOP of simple obstruction and Republicans saying they’ve been marginalized.
The White House has made it clear that Democrats do not intend to start over, as some Republicans have asked, but Obama has said he is willing to compromise. He has dropped the controversial “public option” from his newest proposal and made room for some Republican initiatives, including anti-fraud measures.
"I'm willing to move off some of the preferences of my party in order to meet them halfway,” Obama said. ”But there's got to be some give from their side as well.''
And if there isn’t? Democrats are exploring a reconciliation maneuver that would bypass a Republican filibuster and get a bill passed without a single GOP vote.
Some Republicans sense a set-up at Blair House on Thursday, saying their ideas will fall on minds already made up. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, likened the proceedings to an “informercial on ObamaCare.”
"If they want to highlight bipartisanship, why don't they sit down and start over?“ said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. ”They can highlight bipartisanship all they want, but there's a difference between talking bipartisanship and producing bipartisanship.”
Obama has been talking bipartisanship since his presidential campaign, but Americans aren’t entirely sure he’s doing enough. A recent CBS News/New York Times poll found that roughly 6 out of 10 Americans say Obama is reaching out to Republicans, compared to about 3 out of 10 who say the same of the GOP. In a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, however, a slim majority says Obama isn’t doing enough to cooperate with Hill Republicans, continuing a steady downward trend. Those same respondents, by a 2-to-1 margin, said Republicans weren’t doing enough on their end, though they also say both parties are to blame for the ill will in Congress and expect the majority Democrats to make the first move.
As Obama reminded House Republicans in a meeting less than a week after his inauguration: The president calls the shots. And while Obama has moved toward the GOP on nuclear power, among other issues, much of Congress’ major legislation -- the stimulus package, the Children's Health Insurance Program reauthorization, the House energy bill, the House and Senate health care measures -- has passed with little, if any, Republican support. But the GOP has come in for some criticism as well. Most recently, Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh, in announcing his retirement from the Senate, cited the seven Republicans who opposed a debt commission after supporting a previous incarnation as part of the problem in the capital.
Will that pattern prevail this week? The answer may tell a little more about Obama’s commitment to his promise of forging a bipartisan Washington.