Wednesday, March 17, 2021


While the mainstream media expresses dismay at the fact that the COVID relief bill didn't get any Republican votes (as well as at other signs of the apparent lack of bipartisanship in D.C., like President Biden's reluctance to grovel before Donald Trump and beg him to urge his base to get vaccinated), Politico has a story today about the GOP's response to the passage of the relief bill -- a story that doesn't even consider the possibility that Republicans might have actually tried to influence the content of the bill, the kind of negotiating that many people believe is legislators' main job. Instead, the story tells us that the GOP bungled its real job: making Americans hate the bill.
As President Joe Biden embarks on an ambitious plan to sell his massive coronavirus relief package to the public, conservatives are starting to ask: Did we botch this?

The overwhelming sentiment within the Republican Party is that voters will turn on the $1.9 trillion bill over time. But that wait-and-see approach has baffled some GOP luminaries and Trump World figures who expected Republicans to seize their first opportunity to cast newly-in-charge Democrats as out of control. Instead, they fear the party did little to dent Biden’s major victory — a victory that could embolden the administration in forthcoming legislative fights and even the lead up to the midterm elections.

... Republicans were never expected to support the measure and unanimously opposed it when the time came for a vote. But in interviews with top GOP operatives, Trump confidantes, and congressional aides, there was a common refrain that the party could have done more to frame it for the public. Instead, periodic claims that the bill was bloated with progressive add-ons and bailout money for blue states were overshadowed by a more relentless focus on the culture wars du jour.
Democrats are chastised for not winning over any Republicans, but this story assumes that winning them over would have been all but impossible -- of course every Republican opposed the bill, what did you expect? The job of the GOP, we're told, was simply to poison's the public's mind against the bill, and the GOP botched that.
Before the passage of the stimulus bill, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel criticized the legislation as a “boondoggle” and Democratic “grab bag.” But, all told, the RNC issued just two statements on the bill, both after it had already passed.
The story assumes that no one was negotiating seriously.
For many [White House aides], Biden’s pledge to be a unifying president meant that they had to at least show they were trying to win over GOP votes.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), a Biden ally, said he was encouraged when the president sat down with 10 Republicans in the Oval Office in late February. His optimism faded however when the GOP officials, led by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, floated a $600 billion alternative.
And the point of negotiating, for Republicans, was so they could say afterward that Democrats weren't negotiating. The negotiations weren't intended to change the bill -- they were intended to set up a line of attack discrediting the bill. Fortunately for Democrats, that didn't work.
Republicans used the flimsiness of Biden’s outreach to decry that he had reneged on his pledge to seek a middle ground. But inside the GOP, there were concerns that process arguments weren’t moving the needle. A third Senate GOP aide argued that the attack lines surrounding the absence of bipartisan outreach went over the heads of most Americans.
The notion that legislator-patriots are supposed to sit down and work out the details of major bills is never taken seriously in this story. So the press should stop giving Democrats a hard time for lack of bipartisanship. People who know how the system works don't expect it or believe it's possible.

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