Morgen on February 25, 2010 at 10:09 am
As I expected, the Republicans are more than holding their own against the President in this meeting. Both politically and substantively I think they are largely succeeding. By focussing the narrative on the myriad problems with the Democratic bills, rather than what the President was aiming for, which was a kumbaya discussion around the “areas of agreement”. He has sought to steer the conversation in this direction on multiple occasions, and seems to be putting together a consolidated list of these items to present at the end of the day.
I think it is now crystal clear what the Democrats’ strategy is in hosting this meeting. As detailed in a report today by Politico, they are planning on moving forward with a comprehensive bill regardless of the day’s outcome, perhaps as soon as next week. The objective was to be able to demonstrate to the public that Republicans support some individual provisions within these bills, thus making it “bipartisan” regardless of the much greater number of areas of disagreement.
So whatever takes place throughout the remainder of the day, I think this is the playbook Democrats will move forward with. Starting, I expect, with a massive media campaign highlighting how Republicans claim to be concerned about these issues, and in fact agree with many of the approaches included in the Democrats’ bill, but gosh darn it, they just refuse to compromise at all. (Juan Williams is on TV now already echoing these talking points.)
Ultimately it is still unclear whether they have the votes in the House or the Senate to pull this off. I don’t see anything coming out of this event today which will move the needle on public opinion in their favor, and Republicans are doing a very good job highlighting many of the issues that Democrat moderates are most concerned about. Spending, government control, back room deals, etc.
Here is my prediction. I think at the end of the day it will have been a mistake for the White House to take the gamble with this meeting. It is demonstrating once and for all that Republicans are NOT the “party of no ideas”, and it is reinforcing once again all the areas that have created so much opposition to this plan to begin with.
The Democrats may still ultimately find a way to ram this bill through using budget reconciliation, but they do so at their own political peril. And at this point I think there is a better than even chance that they decide to blame the failure of this bill on Republican obstructionism, and just walk away.
We should find out within the next week or two.