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What Bipartisanship Gets Republicans   April 28th, 2009
This was entirely predictable, and I thought I did...       

 
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Back when I wrote this article questioning the "urgency" of the stimulus bill, I wrote about the different possible outcomes of not passing the stimulus bill immediately. One of the things that I wrote--but which I apparently removed from the article before I published it because I thought it was too cynical--was that Republicans should not negotiate on the stimulus bill because if Democrats were forced to strip spending from the stimulus bill and then the economy did not improve as a result, Democrats would blame Republicans for weakening the stimulus so much it was no longer effective. The failure of the stimulus bill would be blamed on Republicans rather than the fact that the stimulus bill was simply bad policy.

By negotiating things out of the stimulus bill Republicans were opening themselves up to future political attacks about the effectiveness of the stimulus bill.

While the attacks aren't (yet) about its effectiveness in rescuing the economy, the fact that a few Republicans were willing to work with Democrats have indeed opened them (and Republicans)to attacks.


Democrats and liberal bloggers are complaining that Republican lawmakers -- most notably Maine Sen. Susan Collins -- stripped funding for pandemic flu preparedness out of the $787 billion package.

Collins is one of three Republicans who worked with Democrats to pare down the stimulus bill by more than $100 billion. Among the items that were slashed was $870 million in flu-fighting money, which Collins lobbied against.


This just goes to show that when it comes to looking at current events and considering how they might be used in the future by Democrats, I should never let a perception of cynicism limit what I say. I would have been exactly right: By negotiating with Democrats, Republicans opened themselves to attacks from Democrats.

Consider Democratic reaction back when an agreement was reached with Senator Collins on the stimulus bill:

Usually, Americans United for Change buys ads to lambaste Republicans for opposing issues backed by the liberal, union-supported issue advocacy group initially founded in 2005 to rally against President Bush's Social Security reform plan.

But when three Republicans crossed the aisle over the weekend to say they will support a compromise economic recovery plan opposed by every other Senate minority Republican, Americans United for Change bought up radio time urging voters to call and thank Sens. Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter for "providing the leadership we need to get the job done."


So when these three Republicans, including Senator Collins, "crossed over" to give Democrats what they wanted, Americans United for Change praised them. But now, just two months later--and sensing some political opportunity--that very same group is attacking the same senator for the very same action:

The advocacy group Americans United for Change, in a statement, also questioned whether congressional Republicans are having any regrets about stripping the money.

"Will the Party of No stop insisting on the failed economic policies of the past and at least try not to make things worse?" Tom McMahon, acting director of the group, wrote.


In February the group praised Senator Collins for providing "leadership" in negotiating. Now they are politicizing the swine flu and using it to attack Senator Collins for the exact same thing they praised her for two months ago: Negotiating with Democrats.

It's clear that when the group asks "whether congressional Republicans are having any regrets about stripping the money," they're talking about the three senators they praised in February. No other Republicans were involved in stripping the money and no other Republicans voted for the stimulus bill. The only three Republicans responsible for stripping the money were the three Republicans they themselves praised when it was in their political interest.

But as soon as the situation changes and there's an opportunity to score what they perceive as a few political points at the expense of those suffering from a flu outbreak, those same senators are the ones that the liberals immediately throw under the bus. All of the sudden the three Republican senators are no longer heroes for giving liberals the stimulus bill they wanted, but rather are bad guys for stripping out anti-flu spending.

I won't go to any effort to document the fact that Collins has supported flu pandemic preparations in the past, but I will point out that President Bush proposed expanded spending to prepare for a flu pandemic while the Democratic Congress reduced it by 90% . So it's even more hypocritical for liberals to now try to attack the Republicans they heralded as "leaders" for negotiating with Democrats to pass a liberal spending bill, even while Democrats in Congress reduced Bush's budget request for pandemic preparations in 2008.

While Arlen Specter apparently is now a Democrat and it's questionable whether Collins is a Democrat or a Republican, all Republicans should pay attention to this turn of events: Republicans gain noting by giving up their principles and negotiating with Democrats. In fact, what might generate a few days of praise from Democrats very well may be used against Republicans by the very same Democrats that praised them just a few weeks later.

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