Monday, March 22, 2010

The Problem With McCain's Health-Care Tantrum

Posted By on Mon, Mar 22, 2010 at 8:09 PM

Jonathan Chait of The New Republic notes that Sen. John McCain's promise to disrupt any kind of work in the Senate is an odd threat:

A couple points. First of all, the baseline of cooperation is already zero. McCain is presumably upset that Democrats are using budget reconciliation to amend some of the tax-and-budget features of the health care bill that's already passed the Senate. But of course, total GOP opposition on health care is the reason Democrats are using reconciliation in the first place. Indeed, their leader has already boasted about his strategy of grinding legislation t a halt and opposing nearly everything.

Second, if we believe McCain and Graham, they're saying that there are areas in public policy where Republicans would help make legislative changes that they believe would make the country a better place, but they are refusing to do so out of pique that Democrats employed a commonly-used legislative procedure. In other words, their own claim is that they are deliberately choosing to create suffering — not merely preventing legislation the Democrats want, but preventing legislation they agree would help people and would otherwise support — in order to punish the Democrats. This sounds like something the Democrats would accuse them of doing, not something they'd boast about.

Now, as it happens, I don't actually believe that the Republicans are doing this. But it's strange that the culture of "bipartisanship" is such that this is the kind of behavior elected officials would want people to think they're engaging in.

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