Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly
[A] Politico piece suggests Obama hasn't been willing to entertain GOP-friendly concessions on medical malpractice and insurance sales across state lines.
We already know this claim isn't true. Not only is the inter-state competition provision already a part of the Democratic plan, but President Obama very specifically said he's open to compromise on malpractice if Republicans would be willing to give on something else. They refused.
I've lost track of how many concessions Democrats have made to move this legislation to the middle. At this point, not only are the public option and Medicare buy-in gone, and single payer taken off the table before the discussion even began, but the legislation is loaded with Republican ideas. The package is so moderate, far-right Republicans, by their own admission, agree with 80% of it, and the legislation is almost identical to what moderate Republicans were offering 17 years ago.
First this is the sound of one hand clapping. Last I looked, it took two--as in bi--parties to do something bipartisan. Well, Republicans aren't playing. The sentiment at the Tea Party and CPAC conventions on the right was more akin to a lynch mob than a negotiating team. And the right's commissars--led by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin-- are intent on purging any Republican legislators who dare stray from the gospel, much less traffic with the other side.
That sentiment is echoed by the Republican congressional leadership, now scrambling to prove their zealotry. Republican legislators championed the idea of a bipartisan commission on deficit reduction--until Barack Obama endorsed it. Then even co-sponsors of the measure joined in torpedoing it in the Senate. House Republican leader John Boehner's initial precondition for attending the bipartisan summit on health care was that the president "scrap" the legislation that has passed the House and the Senate and "start over." His compromise was to agree to come to the summit to expose the Democratic plan and demand that they agree to start over. This is like the Iranians telling the US they are willing to negotiate about nukes with no preconditions, if the US agrees first to scrap its nuclear arsenal.
The intransigence isn't accidental. Republicans bet heavily that Obama's failure would be to their benefit. They've honed obstruction into a political art. And they are winning. A year ago they were lost in the wilderness, now they believe they are on the march.
What to do?
Unless American voters start to punish them for their obstruction, they aren't about to change.
Millions of Americans want action. They want jobs created and the banks curbed. They want leaders who are on their side, and not catering to corporate interests. The President can posture all he wants about bipartisanship. He and the Democrats have to remember one thing: they need to produce--and voters will hold them responsible if they fail.
The best hope for the country and for Democrats is to give Americans a clear choice. Push for a bold jobs bill--let Republicans oppose it, and force them to filibuster against it. And then take the argument to the American people. Push for taxing the bankers and breaking up the big banks and protecting consumers--let Republicans oppose it, force them to filibuster it, and take that to the American people. And stop talking about health care and pass the damn bill. Pass the Senate bill in the House and push the fix through the Senate on reconciliation.
Republicans, the Tea Party and conservative talking heads all agree that government spending needs to be cut. But when asked what they thought should be cut from the budget, they certainly didn't want to cut Social Security.
A recent Salon piece points out that despite opposition to government spending in general, conservatives do not advocate reductions in government spending on particular programs.
About 49% of conservatives want to cut or eliminate foreign aid; 35% want to cut or eliminate welfare. The other programs, however, are again quite popular. The average percentage of conservatives who want to increase spending is unchanged: about 54%.
The broader point does not change: for most programs, the percentage of conservatives who want to cut spending is small. In fact, it's striking that even foreign aid and welfare attract as much support as they do, especially given the long history of conservative opposition to these programs.