On Bill Moyers Journal (I swear there should be an apostrophe) this past Friday, David Sirota was talking about President Obama's strategy in passing the economic stimulus package. He said:
I think Barack Obama can pull five or ten Republicans with — and by pushing a very progressive agenda. The issue is how much is he willing to sacrifice for political aesthetics? How much is he willing to water down an economic stimulus package with discredited tax cuts in order to get 30 or 40 Republican votes?He reinforced that a couple of minutes later by suggesting that President Obama is trying to get to 80 votes--a suggestion Moyers had made earlier as well. I tend to agree with them. President Obama has been making those noises since before he was President, even since before he was President-elect, so they're no great shock at this point.
I'm very convinced, if you look at polls on issues like healthcare, on issues like, should the government spend to create jobs? I'm very convinced that if he pushes a robust, progressive, Democratic package, he, with his bully pulpit, would be able to peel off the necessary five, six, seven Republican votes in the Senate. But, again, the question is how much is he willing to water that down to get 20 or 30?
What's also not a shock, however, is that Republicans, even those with a (questionable) reputation for bi-partisanship, are going to demand more than what is reasonable to get to 80 votes. At the top of the list is the man who lost decisively to President Obama in 2008, in large part because of the way he waffled when this current economic crisis broke.
Sen. John McCain says it will take some big changes before he would vote for the Obama administration's stimulus package....I expect, personally, that when the final package is done, Senator McCain will find a way to vote for it, as will a number of other Republican Senators. After all, for all his reputation as a maverick, he's far from the most likely to cross the aisle--there are some blue-state Senators who are looking toward 2010 with some trepidation and who want to hook onto whatever economic improvement comes along. If the economy stays bad, they're hosed no matter how they voted. And remember also that once Senator Franken is seated, the Democrats only need one or two votes to get above the filibuster margin--that's the tipping point at which Mitch McConnell will have problems holding his caucus together. 61 votes will mushroom to 70 without an awful lot of effort, and McCain will be one of them.
The former GOP president nominee also says he will push to make permanent the Bush tax cuts, which helped high-earning people. Those cuts expire next year. and President Barack Obama has said he would not seek to renew them.
But gamesmanship aside, the thing that makes me curious is why Republicans are so determined to hold on to what the public in general obviously sees as failed policies. Remember, Republicans were rejected up and down the ticket--they can talk all they want about the various problems in individual races, but the fact is that not only did their party lose the Presidency by an amount unseen in a generation, they lost Senate seats and the margin in the House, already larger than the largest the Republicans ever held, is even larger now. That sort of buttkicking ought to cause at least a little reflection, I would think, but there's no indication that it's happening.
There are signs that President Obama is willing to use his popularity to make his policies become a reality. There's his "I won" moment for starters, but I hope he takes his historically high job approval rating and runs with it, because it won't last.