Thursday, December 10, 2009

Conservatives to GOP: Act Like Jerks

Via Sargent, a nice story from The Hill on conservative frustration at Senate Republicans and their tactics in opposing the health care bill. The complaint? Instead of really obstructing things, Senate Republicans are foolishly -- wait for it -- offering amendments.

Of course, anyone who has been following the debate realizes that GOP amendments, at least so far, have nothing to do with attempting to nudge the bill in a conservative direction; most of them are designed to force reform supporters to cast votes that will look bad in future campaign ads. They're cutting Medicare! They're raising taxes!

Somehow or another, conservatives have decided that this tactic is essentially collaboration with the enemy. The story cites Rush Limbaugh and Gun Owners of America; I heard another radio talk show host ranting about it a couple of nights ago. Apparently the decision by the Senate Republicans to pass on forcing the Senate reading clerk to spend the Thanksgiving break reading the bill out loud is a big sign of collaboration, as are any of the other items on Senator Gregg's manual of obstruction that the Republicans aren't using.

This is, basically, nuts, or at least entirely ignorant of the actual situation. Yes, Republicans could be holding a messy tantrum in the Senate, instead of taking hours of floor time to, well, explain their position. What would that accomplish? It would probably push Joe Lieberman back to the Democratic party. Same with the Benator. It might well force Snowe and Collins to formally break with the GOP. What it would not do is significantly change the schedule, although it might accelerate things a bit. At some point, Harry Reid is going to file a cloture petition. He can't do that until he's ready for the bill to pass, and he can't get the bill ready until he finishes negotiating with Lieberman, Nelson, Snowe, and Collins. But even then he's going to face complaints by Republicans that the Senate is moving too quickly. That's an argument that the press might accept (and that those four marginal Senators might then buy) if the Senate appears to be working on the bill, and the GOP has substantive amendments yet to offer. It's an argument the press is going to laugh at if the GOP hasn't even pretended to be interested in substantive debate.

Mostly, though, blaming Republican Senators (other than Snowe and Collins, should they defect) for the eventual passage of health care reform is just as foolish as were liberal complaints about Democrats in Congress and the Iraq war. Mitch McConnell doesn't have the numbers. He can't stop anything. The Democrats might fail to stick together, but there's very, very little that the GOP can do about it. The real choice for Republicans is whether to try to participate and get the best bill (from their perspective) possible, or to just reject everything. They have chosen the latter. I think that's the wrong way to go, but regardless, Rush & Co. have already won their war. Their remaining complaint is only that the pols want to conduct themselves with at least a small amount of dignity, respect for the nation and their offices, and civility -- all qualities that Rush & Co. have no use for, which may have something to do with Rush & Co.'s vast unpopularity with those outside of their tiny audiences.

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