The Republicans in the House showed us what their version of bi-partisanship last night. Not a single Republican voted for the stimulus package in an amazing show of solidarity. President Obama has gone out of his way to try and reach across the isle for this vote, including making a lunchtime visit to chat with House leaders. The stimulus package includes some $200 Billion in tax cuts, some of which was added after Republicans balked at the initial proposal. Every time the Republicans brought a particular aspect of the package that they didn't like, President Obama made a concession in order to try and appease them. And what did he get for his troubles? ZERO votes! Zero. So not only did he not get a single Republican to vote for the stimulus package, but the country is now stuck with a watered down version of the original proposal. Instead of a package that focuses on putting people back to work through infrastructure projects, we have a plan that includes tax breaks that do not pay immediate dividends in the form of jobs. The Republicans, who have gutted the bill to some extent, can now place the blame fully on the President and the Democratic leadership if the package fails to adequately stimulate the economy.
The President went to the Republicans in a show of good faith. He did not need their votes. The Democrats have unassailable majorities in both houses of Congress and the package can be passed without a single Republican vote. The President made a conscious effort to try and get a consensus and in doing so proved himself a man of his word. During the presidential campaign, he said time and time again that the old ways of Washington would not work going forward. He talked about the things that united us, not the things that divided us. He talked about ushering in a new age of cooperation in Washington. And he backed up those words by doing everything that he could to try and respond to Republican concerns about the Stimulus package. And what did he get for his efforts? Zero votes. The Republican leadership (which had initially complained that there weren't enough tax cuts in the plan, and then complained that there was funding for contraception in the plan, and then complained that the package was too expensive), told their members to vote against the package even before the President showed up. The truth is that there was nothing that the President could have done to convince those Representatives to vote for the package. The Republicans offer no alternative except a continuation of the same financial strategy that has gotten us into this mess but since they are led by the likes of Rush Limbaugh these days, obstructionism is apparently their strategy. I know the President will continue down this road because his goal is to build a consensus. Unfortunately, the people across the aisle are following the Rush Limbaugh mantra of "I hope he fails". The idea of true bipartisanship is a pipe dream.