Before this thing is over and done with, the original American Jobs and Tax Loopholes Closing Act of 2010, which includes a provision helping the unemployed through benefits extensions and a Medicaid provision that will help 30 states balance their budgets, will be a shell of what it was meant to be. In some cases, given the Democrats penchant for putting every stray provision and measure they can find under the umbrella, the Republicans have done a great job cutting and paring the bill. In other ways, they’re just being plain obstructionist and hurtful. In a week, as was reported by the Washington Post, from the time the Republicans managed to successfully continue to filibuster the tax and benefits bill twice, the Democrats shaved off even more billions of dollars from the original bill, including $8 billion from the Medicaid provision meant to go to states to help in their current budgetary crises. That and other modifications wasn’t good enough for not one Republican, even though many of the Republicans helped shape most of the provisions in the bill.
It is generally understood that obstructionist politics only foster resentment and acrimony. Political dealings are a two-way street. Most dealings require some sort of quid pro quo agreement among politicians in order for one side to gain on an issue. The understanding is that once one compromises, a reciprocal compromise is expected from the counterpart in the negotiations.
The Republicans aren’t doing that. They’re getting the Democrats to compromise and compromise, but they’re giving nothing in return. None of them.
And if the average citizen believes that the Democrats are giving up major parts of provisions and billions in expenditures to hear the word “no” be said on the Senate floor by those they have compromised for, that citizen would be sorely mistaken. That is not how politics works. That is reneging on a deal.
Senators like Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who helped trim the aforementioned Medicaid provision, refused to vote for cloture on Thursday, even though she helped pare the total expenditure to $16, with another $4 billion being paid for from unused monies taken from the last stimulus package. Of course, she claims that it is some other part of the bill to which she objects, but that’s simple plausible deniability in action.
Where’s the quid pro quo?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Republicans wanting to cut expenditures and get the best deal possible, but they are doing it now at the expense of millions of Americans, including the unemployed whose benefits have been exhausted and the thousands that will lose their jobs if the overall taxes and benefits bill isn’t passed. They are also doing it at the expense of political bipartisanship and the normal deal-making that goes on in Congress, paying lip service to an ideology (fiscal responsibility and national debt management) they do not believe in (at least not when they are in power) order to make the ruling party look ineffectual, breeding only contempt and resentment that will pass down to future dealings where, as political dominance cycles the now diminished party into a position of dominance, they will find it repaid in obstructionist politics and filibustering.
As stated, while they play lip service obstructionist games and not one Republican breaks ranks with the with what is beginning to resemble nothing more than a self-centered hive-mind, hundreds of thousands of unemployed are left in limbo as to whether or not they’ll receive an extension on their unemployment benefits and thousands more wonder when their respective state employers will make the budget cuts that send them to the unemployment lines as well.