Friday, September 26, 2008

House Republicans Refuse To Roll, So Democrats Spin Out Of Control

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats on the Hill have been spinning out of control today trying to blame yesterday's breakdown of talks at the White House on the presence of Senator McCain at the meeting. In a supremely Machiavellian move, Reid and his Democratic colleagues falsely accused McCain of injecting "presidential politics" into the legislative debate yesterday, while the object of their press conferences today was precisely that: to promote Obama's candidacy by trying to portray the disfunctional meeting yesterday as somehow a win for Obama.

Critical observers should not be fooled. Shouldn't the blame really be placed on Senator Obama, who apparently was not prepared (too much time at the gym?) to address the House Republicans' concerns about the proposed bailout package? After all, it was Obama who was tasked by the Democrats at yesterday's White House meeting with tying the ribbon on the legislative package. The problem for Obama, however, was that not everyone was yet wrapped into the package -- namely, the House Republicans, who rightly felt that their concerns about the price tag and other aspects of the legislation had not been addressed.

Jake Tapper of ABC News reported this comment from Congressman John Boehner, who has led the House Republican revolt:

"I don't know what games were being played at the White House yesterday, ganging up on Boehner," said House GOP Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio "but if they thought they were rollin' me they were kidding themselves."

It appears that the Democrats tried to orchestrate yesterday's meeting so that Obama would sweep in and take all the credit for the legislation. When that did not occur because of the House Republicans' objections, then the Democrats decided to blame McCain.

But contrary to what the Democrats claim, it was not McCain who caused the impasse. As Mark Ambinder reports:

Though Sen. Chris Dodd implied that Sen. McCain sandbagged the rest of the negotiators by bringing up alternative proposals, McCain himself did not bring up those proposals, according to four independent sources briefed by four different principals inside the meeting, including two Republicans and two Democrats.

"McCain has not attacked the Paulson deal," said a third Republican who was briefed by McCain direclty. "Unlike the [Democrats] in the [White House] meeting, he didn't raise his voice or cause a ruckus. He is urging all sides to come together."

Republicans like John Boehner brought up the concerns of House GOPers and McCain acknowledged hearing about their concerns. And McCain, and staffers, did seek to gauge the level of support of the GOP working group's white paper. The Democrats were left with the impression that McCain endorsed the GOP efforts, but they concede that he did not raise them directly.

The fact is that Boehner doesn't have 100 votes from his conference -- 100 votes that Nancy Pelosi really wants. And that's not McCain's fault.

Contrary to what Reid and other Democrats claim, McCain's presence in Washington, D.C. this week has been positive for the legislative debate and negotiations. It is critical for both McCain and Obama to be active participants in the process because, after all, one of those two men is going to the president and in charge of managing everything in the legislation in just a few months. And it is important for both men to respond constructively to the House Republicans' issues rather than simply "roll them", as Obama and other Democrats apparently tried to do yesterday.

The irony is that Obama, the supposed "uniter", is trying to divide Capital Hill by not dealing with the House Republicans' concerns. McCain, in contrast, is listening and trying to work on a compromise to bring everyone -- liberals and conservatives -- together.

But obviously no good deed goes unpunished in a presidential campaign, as evidenced by Reid and other Democrats' partisan rancor against McCain.

In contrast to Reid, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell struck precisely the right note in his remarks today, as reported by Jake Tapper of ABC News:

"We think it's extremely important not only to get the substance of the package right, but to do it quickly," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, "and I think everybody is trying to go forward in good faith."
. . . .
Both [Senator Judd] Gregg and McConnell said that -- despite assertions by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Financial Services Committee Chair Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. -- the presence of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in negotiations has been positive.


McCain has "been a very constructive part of this," said McConnell.


Gregg said that it was helpful for both presidential candidates to return to Washington, DC. "Senator McCain, Senator Obama coming back to the city, coming back to Washington, significantly moved the process along, because, first, it got us focused. But, secondly, more importantly, it got the American people focused on the seriousness of the issue...So I think that was constructive."

McConnell agreed, saying the presence of Obama and McCain "underscored the significance of moving forward and moving forward on a bipartisan basis and doing it quickly."

Hopefully Obama will return with McCain to the nation's capital quickly after tonight's debate and step up his activity in Washington beyond simply being "present" to "roll" the opposition. For the country's sake, Obama should work to forge a consensus with all lawmakers on the Hill, including the House Republicans, as McCain seeks to do.

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