Skip to comments.GOP embracing closed-door deals
Posted on 12/14/2010 11:08:14 AM PST by Qbert
During a White House summit in February, Republican Sen. John McCain ripped President Barack Obama for unsavory closed-door deal-making on health care legislation, saying that the American people care about what we did and how we did it.
But now that Republicans and the White House are pushing through an $850 billion tax deal a measure drafted behind closed doors McCain and his GOP colleagues say theres nothing wrong with the way the bill came together.
I didnt see anything where they sat down with an individual senator and said, Hey, what do you need to support this? McCain told POLITICO last week as the deal was initially announced.
Still, with the bitterness of the health-care debate in the rearview mirror, Republicans once again find themselves in the backroom with broad influence to cut deals with the White House and shape legislation. In so doing, however, Republicans risk angering the people who helped give them new power the activists who lashed out at Obama and congressional Democrats for messy horse-trading that led to the enactment of sweeping health-care legislation.
Thats why I hesitate to describe this as a model because I think the process needs to be opened up some, Sen. Mike Johanns said in an interview in the Capitol. The Nebraska Republican added that it wasnt as bad as health care because Republicans were kept in the loop over the talks.
But many Democrats were not kept apprised during the back-channel talks and now many are incensed by the outcome of the deal and what it means for the next two years with Republicans poised to take back the House and add to their seats in the Senate.
Democrats are growing increasingly fearful that Obama along with incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will carve out key Democratic priorities in the name of crafting bipartisan legislation behind closed doors.
Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a veteran Democrat who chairs the powerful Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he was upset with the GOP but also with the president and his negotiation skills, or lack thereof.
I think for people who voted for this president and voted for us here in 2008, they want to see if we will fight for what we believe in, he said.
Whether the economy, energy legislation, reforming the tax code, trade deals or Afghanistan policy, the issues of what may be ripe for Obama-McConnell-Boehner dealmaking run the gamut.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said theres tension on both sides with the way the tax deal came together.
If we learned anything, it makes sense to apply the lessons learned there, right now, when you see some tension between Senate and the White House, you want to eliminate that, he said.
But one of the most immediate issues is the upcoming vote in the spring to raise the national debt limit that could put Obama and GOP leaders in the position to cut a face-saving deal while appearing to take steps to clean up the sea of red ink.
That may be what Democrats fear most.
My bigger concern is whats going to happen to the budget now, said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Its all going to be about spending cuts and Republicans are going to go after Medicare and Social Security. Thats the biggest lesson out of this: when you give in to them on their signature issue, tax cuts for the rich, everything flows from there.
The true back channel negotiations began when Obama dispatched Vice President Joe Biden to negotiate with McConnell as well as rank-and-file Republicans. Eventually, Biden and McConnell agreed to extend all the Bush tax cuts for two years, cut the Social Security payroll tax and extend the unemployment insurance for 13 months, a plan that could cost about $850 billion over 10 years.
Biden also spoke with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham some two dozen times on a wide range of issues to get his support for an arms treaty with Russia, as well as his buy-in on the tax agreement. Graham said he told Biden that their party was in a tough situation on what to do on the Bush-era tax cuts, saying he had a pair of fours.
You go into next year, you get a pair of twos, Graham said he told Biden. Biden said he thought he had a pair of sixes, Graham recalled.
The closed-door talks didnt end there, however. Once McConnell and Biden hammered out their deal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took the plan to his caucus, which widely panned the deal. After a series of closed-door Democratic meetings, Reid presented McConnell with a list of changes his caucus demanded to the bill.
Once McConnell agreed, the bills language was drafted and included a number of sweeteners aimed at winning over wayward senators, including ethanol tax incentives that could woo Midwestern Democrats. The bill was officially introduced Thursday and brought directly to the Senate floor, bypassing the committee process. It is expected to pass the Senate next week, followed by likely House passage days later.
Sources familiar with the negotiations say an extension of the ethanol subsidy has been part of the discussions all along and were not added to win votes in the Senate. But McCain railed on them on the floor Monday afternoon, ridiculing them as the Hawkeye handout.
Ill vote for it, but its not what the people said they wanted done on Nov. 2, he said.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Obama was in a tough negotiating position since, he said, even Democratic leaders in Congress were pushing the president to reach a deal with the GOP.
In this case, frankly many leaders in Congress said to the president, You reach an agreement. Find out what you can do, do your best then come to us, Durbin recalled. It isnt as if he didnt make an offer to be inclusive they basically said, you need to lead, and he did.
Still, the hastily drafted measure never was brought before a congressional hearing, a committee markup or the monthslong process that usually would take to begin considering a bill of this magnitude. When Democrats rammed through their $787 billion economic stimulus plan just weeks after Obama took office in 2009, Republicans were furious.
It is always better if we were able to have full process what I was talking about was work through committees and have a more open process, said Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo. But he said that the current talks shouldnt be construed as the backroom variety.
What we were criticizing before we didnt know who was in the room there werent negotiations, Crapo said. We tried to negotiate and work on it, but they eventually took it to the leaders office or somewhere and drafted it.
The process isn't all that unusual but it has been criticized so much that it has helped bring down Congress's already rock-bottom approval ratings to historically low levels.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has been attacked relentlessly by his GOP critics for what they call the Cornhusker Kickback, a deal aimed at covering his states expanded Medicaid costs that appeared aimed at winning his support for the health care bill. Nelson has rejected the attacks, but they became fodder during the campaign as Republicans from coast-to-coast used it to castigate the Democratic majority.
It certainly is going back on their criticisms that theyve leveled in the past, Nelson said of the how the current tax deal came together. Criticism very often depends on whos leveling it, and thats based on whos in office. Thats what people dislike most.
One of the Republicans who has been in the room negotiating with Democrats has been Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), another fierce critic of how business was done in the first two years of the Obama White House.
Asked about the current process for pushing the tax bill forward, he said: No comment.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Politico. Ever the flame thrower. Seeking to divide and conquer conservatives is their full time mission.
If it comes from Politico, I make it a habit to wait on DeMint and Company to respond before reacting, as Politico hopes we blow one another up and the newbies in congress.
If a reporter asks if you are headed for the Ammo Box since the Voters Box obviously didn’t work, be sure to reply with a smile, No comment.
and what would you do, sweetheart? Throw him a kiss as he screws your children’s future up worse than it already is?
They have to pass it to know what’s in it, dontchyaknow.
“Politico. Ever the flame thrower. Seeking to divide and conquer conservatives is their full time mission.”
Yeah, Politico can be trash at times. But you assume that “conservatives” are being divided here. They’re not- it’s the same old people that got us into this mess in the first place.
I can’t believe that the stupid asses in Arizona didn’t get rid of McCainiac when they had the chance.
He’s right back to his RINO business as usual back-stabbing as we knew he would be.
The word ‘transparency’ seems to be just political rhetoric for either party.
I don’t care if they meet while waving flags, popping baloons, and eating fried chicken under a tree in Fort Marcy Park or in the darkest caverns of the Capitol, it’s the vote on what comes out of these boogey man meetings that is meaningful. Meantime, Politico is not going to be in charge of my blood pressure knee jerk reactions. I wait for the ones in the know to opine, sugar.
Its November 1st all over again.
The upcoming meetings were not kept a secret;
The details of the planned legislation were made available to the public;
The Republicans kept their peers in Congress apprised of the status (can't help it Obama didn't keep the Dems posted)
No one (at least on the Republican side) has been offered any goodies to get them to vote for it.
As an Arizona desert rat I hang my head in shame every time I see his picture or hear his name. Once a hero, now a zero.
“No one (at least on the Republican side) has been offered any goodies to get them to vote for it.”
Huh? Grassley announced he was voting for it when they agreed to put the billions of dollars of ethanol subsidies in it. (And there are other Repubs who will do the same thing).
This isn’t the same “deal” that Repub leaders worked out with Obama by any means- it’s all horse-trading now.
GOP is pretty much “Democrats with Jobs”. Hopefully there will be some change with the Tea Party inspired newbies....if not....they will be Tea Partied
Oh, that I know.