Zero Republicans Vote For Stimulus

January 29, 2009

Make no mistake – this was an entirely political calculation on their part (even though I do believe that most of them are self-deluded into believing that tax cuts are superior in this case to spending, which goes against all economic wisdom). They likely figured that it’s going to be a long time before the economy begins to recover (and they’re likely right about that), so they’re better off opposing any stimulus package so they can argue later that the Democrats spent a trillion dollars and it did nothing for the economy.

Nate Silver, though, thinks that they would’ve been better off if at least a few Republicans supported the bill:

“But does it do the party as a whole any good for having opposed the bill unanimously? With headlines like the one in the Associated Press, it’s hard to imagine so. Their unanimous opposition reads as an emphatic rejection of the President and the President’s attempts at ‘bipartisanship’. And the President is very popular right now.”

Hilzoy thinks that even though it ended up winning over not a single Republican vote, Obama was right in trying to compromise (and I agree):

“As Steve noted earlier, the stimulus bill passed the House without a single Republican vote. I’m glad it passed. I’m also glad that Obama tried as hard as he did to get bipartisan support, and I don’t think that the fact that he didn’t get it shows that the attempt was misguided. There are good reasons to try for bipartisan support regardless of how likely you think you are to succeed.

If you do succeed, then both parties have some ownership of the stimulus bill, neither will be as eager to politicize it, and it will be harder for either to use it to beat up the other. This is good. If you try hard, and publicly, to attract Republican support, but fail, then Republicans look like intransigent ideologues who would rather try to score political points than actually deal with the serious problems the country faces. You, by contrast, look reasonable: you tried to reach out, but your efforts were rejected.

Obviously, this only works if your efforts look serious. If Obama had gone to the Republicans and said: I propose a bill entirely made up of things Democrats really want and you really hate, but please, do join us in supporting it!, that wouldn’t work at all. But he didn’t do that. He went the extra mile. When Republicans protested about particular things, he dropped some of them (though not all: he was not, for instance, willing to compromise on refundable tax credits, and he was right not to compromise on that one.) There’s a fine line between being willing to compromise and being willing to surrender, and I think Obama generally stayed on the right side of it, while being open enough to compromise that he will get real credit for trying.

The House Republicans, by contrast, looked silly. They were carping about tiny bits of the stimulus (the capitol mall?!). They changed the bits they objected to from one day to the next, and looked for all the world like what I take them to be: people who were determined to oppose the stimulus bill from the outset.”

So we’ll see what happens now in the Senate.


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