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The Meaning of Bipartisanship

October 27th, 2009

I’m not the only one feeling confused by Obama and the Democrats’ eagerness to get the single Senate vote of Olympia Snowe. Sure, she might have pulled one or two other moderate Republicans (although, how many are left now?) along with her, but frankly, I doubt it–Republicans are far too partisan on this issue. Even Snowe’s vote was not assured, for crying out loud.

Now that Reid had come to his senses and has put his money on the Opt-out Plan, Snowe is deeply disappointed:

Snowe issued a statement Monday, saying she was “deeply disappointed” with Reid’s decision on the public option. She argued that a decision in favor of a trigger “could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate.”

Oh, please. Your single vote is not “bipartisan.” Nor would even a few more. More than a dozen Republicans voting for it, maybe.

But you know what? The bill is already bipartisan. Remember that in the days of GOP control, there would be none of this “bipartisan” talk at all. Nothing. The GOP would write the bill as they liked and shove it through Congress, screaming bloody murder if the Dems even hinted at a filibuster.

What we have today is far different: despite the Dems holding a 60-seat supermajority, a Republican filibuster is assumed, and instead of rants and tirades and threats of the “nuclear option,” the Dems have been bending over backwards to try to get Republicans on board. Instead of pushing it through quickly like the GOP would have done, they allowed for delay while knowing full well it was for no other reason than to allow Republicans to take their best shot at savagely attacking the bill.

Already a host of compromises have changed the legislation, and that’s why it’s a bipartisan bill even if every Republican votes against it. Partly because the Democratic Party already includes a number of conservatives, but mostly because Republicans have had their say and have helped shape the bill. Were is truly a “partisan” bill, it would be single-payer Medicare-for-Everyone. Just because the Dems started from a position that was already bipartisan does not mean that that bipartisanship doesn’t count.

The GOP can wail and rant and kick and cry, they can hold their collective breath till their collective face turns blue (or, more appropriately, red), they can vote as a solid block against the bill with not a single “yea” vote–but the bill is bipartisan already.

Bipartisanship means giving voice to the other party; Republicans never gave this to Democrats, but Democrats have given full voice to Republicans. Bipartisanship means allowing compromise and coming to a point well away from what you want in order to appease the other side and address their concerns; Republicans never gave Democrats an inch, but Democrats have given Republicans a mile.

Just about everything the Democrats have done so far smacks of bipartisanship; just about everything the GOP has done so far smacks of strident partisanship.

Suck on it, GOP: you played dirty as hell while the Dems tried to placate you, but you lost. Now go cry in your milk before you start your attempts to smear and sabotage the health care reform that will pass.

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