It’s been a while since I posted on here, but I just had some thoughts on today’s historic events that I thought I’d share. First of all, as a politically moderate supporter of President Obama, I was glad to see the Republicans take control back of the House of Representatives. For anyone who read my 2008 essay on the election, you know that I liked what then candidate Obama said regarding changing the political tone in Washington. Unfortunately, I think he found a Washington that was embroiled in political bickering and that was further complicated by his own party which realized it controlled power in all the political branches of government for the first time in 14 years. This resulted in the Democrats early on ignoring President Obama’s attempts to include Republicans on the stimulus just days into his presidency. Speaker Pelosi was intent on showing off the Democrats new found power and used it to swiftly pass the stimulus while President Obama was attempting to court Republicans. This ultimately set the tone for the next two years as Republicans quickly took to the role of minority party and simply criticizing anything proposed by the Democrats.
With the 2010 elections results (which were very predictable), there is now a return to shared government between the two parties. I was VERY pleased with the way things changed in December as three very important items were passed with varying levels of bi-partisan support – the two year extension of the Bush tax cuts, the ratification of the New START Treaty with Russia and repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I was hopeful that this was a precursor to how President Obama and Republican leadership would work together on getting things accomplished in the 112th Congress where there will be shared responsibility.
Unfortunately, what I’ve heard out of House Republicans suggests something different. In fact, it suggests business as usual, such as more investigations into the executive branch and more catering to interest groups. However, the thing that really bothers me is the move to bring up a vote on the “repeal” of the healthcare reform that passed last year. What exactly are the House Republicans hoping to gain with this? I’m sure it will pass the House and they might even get some Democrats to come on board with it. However, it’s got no prayer in the Senate which the Democrats still control and President Obama would veto any such bill anyway. All the Republicans are trying to do is embarrass the President with this move as they want to pass it prior to the State of the Union Address. So that’s what we’re paying them for – passing useless bills just to embarrass the other party. Oh, & I’m not sure it even accomplishes its goal – how will it embarrass them?
Another thought that some of the Freshman Republicans who won in swing districts might want to consider before they vote “Yes” on repeal. Are you sure you want that to be your first big vote? Remember there are some good things in the original health care reform, such as not allowing insurance companies to deny you for pre-existing conditions or allowing children to stay on their parent’s insurance longer. You really want to vote “No” on that stuff? Because that’s what voting for repeal means. Keep in mind, the Congressmen who make up the Republican leadership in the House are mostly from safe districts, but that is not the case for some Freshmen who won in “swing” districts. By voting for repeal, you are writing your opponent's first negative ad when you run for re-election in 2012. “Congressmen X sided with the BIG insurance companies when he voted to allow them to deny you coverage for a pre-existing condition.”
Republicans need to remember the lessons of 1995-96 if they truly wish to use their 2010 victory as a spring board to retaking the White House in 2012. In 1995-96, Republicans tried this same thing with President Clinton. They tried embarrassing him and marginalizing him, and that was when they had control of both houses in Congress. Well, it didn’t work. Clinton rediscovered what made him a popular candidate with moderates and independents and he spoke to those voters again. You can see President Obama starting to do some of the same things in December with his willingness to compromise when it was in the best interest of the economy (extension of the Bush tax cuts and unemployment benefits), seizing the foreign policy mantle as Chief Diplomat (ratification of New START) and being practical in pushing for repeal of an unpopular and defective policy (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”). I said it before the Mid-Terms and I’ll say it now, the Republicans taking control of the House might be the best thing to happen to President Obama. I’m interested to see how he approaches the State of the Union Address both in tone and in actual policy. I’ll try and check in then.