John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Loyal Opposition

Posted on October 7, 2009
The Loyal Opposition

Republicans don’t have any power in Washington D.C. The Democrats have a sizeable majority in the House. They have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. They control the executive branch. They have a news media that is largely compliant.

Republicans have nothing, with the possible exception of a slim majority on the Supreme Court (although the Supremes keep to the law, mostly, and stay out of politics).

So, why do Democrats continue to blame Republicans for the fact that they can’t get their agenda through?

Yes, Republicans opposed the Democrats on their stimulus plan. They said it wasn’t going to work and it really hasn’t. Yes, they opposed the Democrats plan on cap and trade. They think higher energy taxes aren’t helpful in a slowing, economy that is already leaking jobs to China. Yes, they oppose and continue to oppose the Democrats plans on health care reform. They think it costs too much and won’t work in the real world of the marketplace.

But Republicans don’t always oppose the Obama White House. For example, they will support Mr. Obama if he decides to send more troops in Afghanistan so our generals can have the resources necessary to win the so-called war of necessity.

Some have condemned the loyal opposition for not working with the Democrats on health care reform. Olympia Snowe, for example has been viciously attacked for not signing up immediately for the Baucus plan. But it does little good for the Republicans to sign on to a plan that will change dramatically once it gets to the President’s desk.

The left hits the Republicans for not coming up with their own ideas on health care. One left-wing Congressman said that the Republican idea of health care reform is for people to do die quickly. Of course, that is all completely ridiculous, and completely beside the point. The Republicans don’t run the Congress. Democrats do. Republicans couldn’t stop the Democrats from passing a single-payer system if they wanted to, if the Democrats had their act together, had all of their different caucuses on the same wave length, and had the chutzpah to push it through.

But the Democrats don’t have their act together. They don’t have unity in their different caucuses. And while they may have chutzpah, they don’t have enough of it to get anything done.

Sure, Republicans could offer their own alternatives. And eventually, they will come up with a plan that will work for their base. But for Republicans to somehow alienate their political base and vote for a plan that will look completely different by the time it gets through the conference process would be an act of political suicide. There is no reason for Republicans to put their trust in a process that will come back to screw them in the long run.

Rahm Emanual has done a clever job of getting Republicans from outside of Congress to make comments about health care reform that seemingly isolate Congressional Republicans. Bill Frist, Tommy Thompson and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all said that Republicans and Democrat ought to pass health care reform together. But none of those Republicans understood completely where we are in the process right now, and none of them were fully quoted.

The fact of the matter is that this is the Democrats’ show. They get the blame if this thing fails and they get the credit if it passes and it proves to be popular. Republicans have no reason to support a package that completely conflicts with their philosophy of governance.