Republicans Are Still Main Culprit in Beltway Gridlock

Following his defeat over legislation that would close the “gun show” loophole; stalled immigration reform, and a setback over FAA funding in the automatic spending “sequester,” President Obama is facing a torrent of media criticism that he’s lost his “juice.”

And indeed the president has gone into one of his periodic funks, where he seems to retreat into a cocoon before emerging aggressively, as he did in September 2011, following the debt ceiling debacle.

This blog has repeatedly criticized this president’s leadership—the complaints about “detachment” and “aloofness” are justified. And so is his apparent lack of interest in follow-ups and “sweating the details.”

But now, he’s up against a stone wall of Republican intransigence. Just six months after his comfortable reelection, when the GOP was supposed to do some serious soul searching, congressional Republicans have dug in even deeper and appear determined to never let him get his way.

In a revealing piece last week in Politico, Jake Sherman wrote of a “House in Chaos”:

The House simply isn’t interested in the agendas being pushed by the president and Democratic Senate. Most Republicans aren’t looking for a big legislative push on gun control. GOP leaders are skeptical that they can arrive at a framework to negotiate a budget agreement with Senate Democrats. And tax reform and an immigration overhaul, while broadly supported, are still seen as long shots.

The biggest stumbling block, Sherman wrote, is the Tea Party faction, “stiff ideologues who didn’t extract any lesson from Mitt Romney’s loss and are only looking to slash spending and defund President Barack Obama’s health care law at every turn.”

Is it any wonder the president has stopped talking to House Speaker John Boehner?

House Republican leaders give press conference in April. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/republicanconference.

House Republican leaders give press conference in April. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/republicanconference.

And though the Senate looks more amenable to bipartisan compromise, leadership there is also playing hardball, as Paul Brandus reported in The Week:

…Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — whose most fervent hope was that Obama would be a one-term president—now knows with absolute certainty that Obama will be gone in three-and-a-half years.

In fact, the Kentucky senator has less incentive to deal now than ever before, because there’s a good chance that Republicans will win the Senate next year.

McConnell, of course, is running for reelection in 2014 and doesn’t want to face a Tea Party primary challenge.

Then there are the Republican presidential hopefuls for 2016—Senators Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. Rubio already has stuck his neck out for immigration reform, so he’ll have to shore up his base on everything else. And Cruz especially, but also Paul, have turned obstructionism into an art form.

Am I being unfair? Listen to what Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said after his proposed expanded background checks bill failed to get 60 votes:

“In the end it didn’t pass because we’re so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it…”

Just because the president wanted to do it. Doesn’t that say it all? If President Obama supported Medicare vouchers, tax cuts for the top 1% and allowing prayer in school again, he might have trouble getting 60 votes in the Senate.

The truth must be told: A huge number of Republican voters simply hate this president with a passion and they would rather lose than give him any victory. You’re never going to win over people like this, no matter how many cocktail parties and make-nice dinners you throw. The president needs to accept that and act accordingly if he wants to salvage his second term.  

2 Responses to Republicans Are Still Main Culprit in Beltway Gridlock

  1. Thornton Prayer May 10, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    Yes, Howard, everything you say is true but your last statement that “The president needs to accept that and act accordingly if he wants to salvage his second term” seems unrealistic. If congressional Republicans can interrupt Obama’s agenda via standard constitutional means, how can he overcome their intransigence without violating the constitutional limits of the Executive branch?

    • HowardRGold May 10, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

      Good question and I wouldn’t want him to do that, but he can push executive powers to the limit and dare them to challenge him on issues like health care, banking reform, mileage standards, etc., using his control over the agencies to hold firm. Also, I think he does better when he stands up to the GOP than when he tries to accommodate them. It may be counterintuitive but it has worked.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

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