Opinion: Our compromise machine is busted

(AP)

For seven years, Washington Republicans insisted over and over again that they had a plan for replacing Obamacare, and that we’d see it “soon.” It’s impossible to count how many times they offered such assurances in statements to the press and public, but collectively the number must reach well into the thousands, maybe even tens of thousands.

Yet year after year, “soon” never came. Even now, with control of the House, Senate and White House, Republicans are failing spectacularly in their effort to propose and enact health-care legislation. Part of the problem can be attributed to the sheer unpopularity of their ideas, but U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, recently explained that the failure has mechanical aspects as well:

“It’s easier to rage against the machine when you’re not in control of the machine, No. 1. And the perception that we are in control of the machine is inaccurate. Needing 50 out of 52 members on the same page in the Senate? I think that is not being in control of the machine.”

As an explanation of their immediate predicament, that’s fairly accurate if superficial. When you need agreement of 50 of 52 Senate Republicans in order to act, that’s asking a lot. But what I find fascinating — what gets at the deeper problem affecting the Republican Party and by extension Washington and our entire governing apparatus — is the unspoken, unexplored assumption hidden in Scott’s analysis like a submerged rock awaiting a passing ship.

Under the Constitution, Scott and his fellow Republicans do not need 50 out of 52 members, or the agreement of 96 percent of the GOP caucus, to pass health-care legislation. They need 50 votes out of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate, or a much more attainable 50 percent of the Senate as a whole.¹ The assumption that they have to limit their universe of available votes to 52 is a restriction that they have imposed entirely on themselves. They didn’t want Democratic votes, they made no effort to woo Democratic votes, and until now they have aggressively, emphatically rejected any Democratic effort to participate. (The same was of course true of House Republicans in their own repeal effort.)²

Why do they limit themselves to seeking only Republican votes? They do so because their ideology now requires them to avoid compromise at all costs. In fact, the goal of the single-party governance style gradually embraced by the GOP over the past 30 years is to render the opposition party entirely powerless, to give them no effective voice in the outcome and to maintain all power within the confines of the majority party.

We are now witnessing the effort to govern by those precepts, and it has not been pretty. It has not been pretty because in effect, Republicans are trying to graft their radical, parliamentary, winner-take-all style of governance onto a constitutional system that was specifically designed by the Founders to frustrate that approach.

Madison, Hamilton and others did not want majorities to easily impose their will on minorities. They did not see compromise as an evil to be avoided; they saw it as a process to be nurtured. They saw negotiation between factions as a necessity, not as a sign of moral weakness. They understood that in a small-r republican system, the governing majority that comes together to solve one problem will probably fall apart on the next issue, forcing the creation of a different governing majority, and they saw virtue in that flexibility. They believed that no monolithic party has all the answers, all the time.

Through the Constitution, the Founders designed a structure of government that reflected those principles and that demanded compromise. So to put another way, what the Republicans are attempting to do in Washington is akin to trying to run a Windows computer on an Apple operating system. The software is simply incompatible with the hardware.

Faced with imminent failure on the health-care front, some Senate Republicans are perhaps coming to grips with that reality. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a few others are now talking, reluctantly, about the necessity of starting over should the current GOP plan fail to garner 50 votes, this time by welcoming Democrats into the discussion. Maybe they mean it; maybe it’s just a threat to scare Republicans back into line. Even if they do mean it, the muscle memory for compromise and negotiation has atrophied to such an extent in Congress that the odds of success are slim.

And even if the Senate were somehow to produce a bipartisan bill that does the necessary repair work on Obamacare without stripping millions of Americans of Medicaid coverage, I just don’t see Republicans in the House responding in the same cooperative spirit. The mentality of one-party rule and the rejection of compromise have become core, defining values in the Republican House caucus, and it’s almost impossible to envision House Speaker Paul Ryan having the courage or frankly the votes to buck that mentality.

In the short term, that means the nation’s health-care system will probably get a lot worse before it gets better, and that no solution will be implemented until after the mid-terms. Over the longer term, it means that if we don’t rehabilitate the notion and the practice of compromise, we may render ourselves helpless against our own decline.

 

 

—————–

¹ Vice President Pence would provide the needed 51st vote.

²Conservatives like to point out that Obamacare was itself passed strictly along party lines, as if that were evidence that Democrats also practice a no-compromise style of politics. That conclusion is not supported by the facts of the case.

From 2009-10, President Obama and his fellow Democrats tried for months to woo Republican support for an approach that itself was born in a Republican think tank, that had been pioneered in Massachusetts by a Republican governor. Obama welcomed GOP input and amendments, and invited Republicans to the White House to confer on its provisions, all to no avail. Once House and Senate Republicans made it clear that any of their members who voted in favor of the bill would be tarred, feathered and ridden out of the Republican Party on a rail, bipartisan compromise was doomed.

Reader Comments 0

1292 comments
Peachs
Peachs

I find it fanasinating that Trump decides he is just going to let Obamacare failed. With his track record I am more happy he is against us than for us. Obamacare has never been safer!

N-GA-Online
N-GA-Online

What's wrong with a 1-party system? It works great in Russia!

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

So repeal now. No replace. Are the Trumpeters ok with this flip-flop. Or it doesn't matter since Trump is never wrong.

Paul42
Paul42

One big difference between The Donald and Obama in how their political opponents treated them.


Obama's detractors never ridiculed his intellect, his knowledge, his understanding of issues.  Ethnicity, personality (he's arrogant!!!) and style were all the rage.  Beginning with putting mustard on his hamburger.  Seriously.

But The Donald?  The ridicule is all about his lack of intellect, knowledge, understanding of the issues.  Plus some personality quirks most families wouldn't tolerate from a crazy uncle at a family picnic.

Pretty telling, isn't it?

Fan4500
Fan4500

@honested @Fan4500 The winning started Nov. 8th, 2016, 1st day of work, Jan. 20th, 2017 and will end somewhere around Jan. 19th, 2025

rimsky
rimsky

 Trump Unzips Pants, Shows Everybody His Little Bitty Approval rating

Thought it was pretty funny.  LOLOL

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

For those of you with kids, there is a lesson in the GOP's effort to repeal and replace - specifically, do not let your mouth write checks your body can't cash!

OldJacketFan
OldJacketFan

@Eye wonder 

I prefer to say never let your alligator mouth overload your hummingbird arse.  Fits the lard butt Rs SO much better

Kamchak
Kamchak

I just wonder how the Buddhists will destroy The US, and when....

I hope I don't have to cut the grass next week.

Paul42
Paul42

@Kamchak  It'll be a Zen experience.  That's why they're so dangerous.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@Eye wonder

Alternet had a story about how weed is a better sleep aid than sleeping pills.

Hell, I knew that years ago.   

honested
honested

@Kamchak 

Of 'coarse' I stand by my suggestion yesterday. Elect 50 Democratic Buddhists and 50 Democratic Muslims and the conserrrrrrrrvative ignorati will be so beside themselves they won't even be able to gum up effective governance!

Kamchak
Kamchak

@Paul42

Yes, every time I read Siddhartha I wonder when Buddhists will go on a destroying binge.   

honested
honested

@Kamchak @Paul42 

It only happens in the later years, when they are "banana eaters, to whom rice is a delicacy".

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@Fan4500 I asked about Trump's job performance 27 minutes ago, and 27 minutes later you are still have not answered the questions.  Clown show


StraightNoChaser 27 minutes ago

@Fan4500 @StraightNoChaser @td1234 What work did he do on the healthcare legislation?  How many town halls did he hold?  How many press conferences did he hold and take questions on it? 

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

Now that healthcare has been shelved, President Lyingscumbag and the GOP can turn to ripping up the Iran nuclear deal. Amirite?

BWAHAHAHAHAHA

gotalife
gotalife

christie said jr broke the law.

rimsky
rimsky

 The officer said that the female fighters were arrested last Thursday in the Old City of Mosul, noting that they were hiding in in a tunnel built by the IS and were wearing suicide vests.

The arrested female fighters had come from Germany, Russia, Turkey, Canada, Libya, the Caucasus and Syria, according to the report.

They did not want to blow themselves up for sure.

Paul42
Paul42

@rimsky  I have it on good authority the officer also found a Buddhist prayer rug at the entrance to the tunnel.

gotalife
gotalife

WSJ told trump to come clean on russia but he will not listen.

He lost Iran and trumpcare today.

A twofer failure.

Fan4500
Fan4500

For you "He's not my President" bloggers, thanks for proving my point.


It's all about the Election, you still haven't accepted it.

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@Fan4500

"Yours." "Mine" Whatever. Doesn't change the fact that America has a lying scumbag as president, one who is more hated than any other.

KUTGF
KUTGF

@Fan4500  You mean like Trump and the GOP accepting a birth certificate.  

You keep on whining sweetie.  

Brosephus
Brosephus

@Fan4500

So, "your" president stands for bigotry, discrimination, lying, and so forth, and you have the testicular fortitude to call someone else un-American?  I don't have any personal issues with you or your opinions, but you can kick rocks on the thought that people haven't accepted the election.

The problem is that you conservatives are whiny, even when you win.  You complained for the last 8 years.  You control the WH and both houses of Congress, and you still can't govern.  Instead of looking inside yourselves to figure things out, you blame Dems and Hillary Clinton.

She lost.  Get over it!!!  Seems like you conservatives are the ones that can't accept the results of the election.  You're like Wile E. Coyote.  You caught the Roadrunner and now you don't know what the hell to do.

Fan4500
Fan4500

@Eye wonder @Fan4500 Nope, the 44th President is at the bottom, then the 39th. We'll see in 8 years where President Trump ranks.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

F. Scott on the Trumps

they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@PaulinNH

I had occasion to re-read Gatsby a few months ago.

A lot of it was shockingly, depressingly accurate describing today's one-percenters.