John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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An Unlikely Partnership

Posted on August 3, 2010
President Obama loves to mock Congressional Republicans as the gang that drove the economy into the ditch.  Congressional Republicans love to attack President Obama as the guy who is seeking to make America a “socialist” country.

Many wonder how these two sides would work together should Republicans regain power in Congress this November.  Will it be partisan warfare 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?  Will such a result lead to Washington D.C. style gridlock, where neither side can move an inch in either direction?  Will the Republicans be able to return to Bush-economics, as the President hints?  Will they be able to repeal the President’s health care bill as they promise on the campaign trail?

In fact, it is my theory, that President Obama and Congressional Republicans could have a productive, if unlikely, partnership that could move the country forward on several different fronts in the next Congress.

Here are the five issues that I think could be fertile ground for compromise next year should the Republicans retake the Congress:

1)      Debt:  I don’t foresee some grand compromise, ala the Andrews AFB Budget summit of the early 1990’s, but I do see several smaller compromises that could lead to a smaller debt (at least as a percentage of the GDP).  Republicans are going to cut spending, and since Congress is in charge of the purse strings, the President really can’t do much about it.  The President can ask for more money, but he can’t appropriate it himself.  On the tax front, taxes are going to go up.  The Bush tax cuts are going to expire this year, and Congressional Democrats, if they do anything this year, are most likely to just pass an extension.  The President doesn’t have to do anything except veto whatever tax cuts the Republicans send his way, which he will most likely do.

2)      Business Growth:  The President hates Big Business.  Republicans love Big Business.  Businesses will be protected by the Republican Congress from more job-killing government mandates, but Obama will use the bully pulpit to keep any excesses in check.  Businesses will gain more confidence that they have somebody watching their collective backs, and they will grow as a result.

3)      Education:  John Boehner was instrumental in passing the first major Education reform bill in 2001, along with Ted Kennedy and George Bush.  He will be instrumental in working with Arnie Duncan and the President in passing to continue the work of reform.

4)      National Security:  While Mr. Obama campaigned from the left on defense and intelligence issues two years ago, he has adopted most of President Bush’s apparatus (including Bush’s last Defense Secretary), and key objectives.  We still have Gitmo, we are sending more troops to Afghanistan, and the President has claimed the Iraq victory (started under Bush’s surge) as his own.   Republicans will likely continue to accuse Obama of being weak on the war on terror, but at the end of the day, they will see eye-to-eye on most defense issues.

Politics sometimes makes strange bedfellows and once Congressional Republicans gain power this November, they will have a vested interest in delivering for the American people.  In that quest to deliver for the voters, they will be joined at the hip with President Obama.  The two sides will surely clash on issues big and small.  They will hurl invectives at one another and they will show minimally high regard for the opinions of the other side.  But at the end of the day, they know that they will have to cooperate if they want to stay in power.  And at the end of the day, that will be enough to make them produce the kind of compromises that will move this country forward.

John Feehery is the former spokesman to House Speaker Denny Hastert.  He is the President of The Feehery Group, a strategic advocacy firm, and he blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com and for The Hill Pundits Blog.