The Republicans in the House have indicated to President Obama that the “honeymoon” period after his inauguration may be short-lived. After making concessions to conservatives in an attempt to garner bipartisan support for H.R.1 – American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Republicans repaid the President by voting unanimously as a party against the measure (244-188 with 10 Democrats voting no and 1 non vote). The bill now heads to the Senate where there will be certain rewrites.
Where’s the Payback?
If I recall correctly, when the Republicans were in control of Congress during most of George W. Bush’s presidency, Democrats had nowhere near the influence as a minority party as the Republicans currently enjoy. Even when the Democrats threatened Senate filibusters, the majority Republicans threatened invoking a “nuclear option”, in essence, changing the voting rules to end the filibuster. Democrats were bullied then and are wondering now, why the President has not assumed an adversarial tone. To some, it appears that President Obama is governing without looking up at the scoreboard and realizing that his team is in the lead. The Democrats have a big majority in the House and are within one vote of a super majority in the Senate.
The Mid-Term Elections
The President has the political capital to nudge Republican senators on the stimulus bill. The 2010 mid-term elections are fast approaching. Of the 15 Republican incumbents running for reelection, four represent states that voted for Obama in 2008 (IA, NH, NC and PA). In addition, 3 of the 4 retiring Republican senators are also from Obama won or nearly won states (FL, MO, and OH) while 2 other Republican incumbents are in trouble (KY and LA).
Should the Republicans in the Senate attempt to hijack the intent of HR-1 in their version, President Obama should take his case to the jury of the American people. A well timed television, radio, and YouTube address to the nation would put pressure on the Republican Party, as well as, reassure the core of the increasingly restless progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Like FDR’s masterful use of the media to get his point across in the 1930’s, President Obama could easily sway public opinion given the harsh economic climate. Doing so may create the necessary groundswell to force the Republican Party to act in a truly bipartisan manner. And if that doesn’t work, Mr. Obama should unleash Senate Majority leader, Harry Reid and resort to the partisan tactics that Republicans truly understand.