Have the Republicans turned a corner?

posted at 7:58 am on January 29, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Republicans faced some difficult decisions in Congress in how to proceed after two successive defeats in national elections and the election of a popular Democratic President.  They needed to find a way to rebuild their credibility as a party of fiscal discipline and common-sense accountability after losing it in a six-year spending spree and several corruption scandals.  Without power to move legislation to the floor in either chamber, though, they had to avoid being hyperpartisan, showing the kind of cooperation that the American public wants while remaining firm on core principles.  The real question is whether the Democrats would give them that chance with their overwhelming control of Congress.

It took them eight whole days:

Obama engaged in an all-out lobbying push for the bill, which is among the most expensive pieces of legislation ever to move through Congress, and marked a big victory for his presidency a little more than a week into his term. He will now turn his attention to the Senate, where Democrats are scheduled to begin debate on the measure on Monday and the price tag is likely to reach $900 billion.

Larger than the combined total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far, the two-year stimulus plan would provide up to $1,000 per year in tax relief for most families, dramatically increase funding for alternative energy production, and direct more than $300 billion in aid to states to help rebuild schools, provide health care to the poor and reconstruct highways and bridges.

But Obama’s personal salesmanship effort failed to secure a single Republican supporter for the spending plan, which passed on a 244 to 188 vote. Just a day after the president spent more than an hour behind closed doors at the Capitol seeking their support, all 177 House Republicans opposed the measure, arguing that it would spend hundreds of billions of dollars on initiatives that would do little to stimulate the economy. Eleven Democrats opposed the bill.

It’s no big victory; passage of anything with the numbers Obama has in Congress should be assured.  In fact, it’s something of a defeat for Obama, as he lobbied heavily for Republican votes on this package.  Obama met three times with Republican leadership, received warmly each time and even posing for pictures with some of them.  Not only did he fail to gain a single GOP vote, he lost 11 Democrats in the House.

Republicans had no investment in this bill, and the blame for that falls squarely on Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  While Obama met three times with Republican leadership, she refused to meet with her counterparts at all to negotiate on the stimulus.  Her high-handed approach lost Obama any potential Republican support he might have gained as she attempted to stuff a Democrats-only bill down Republican throats.  That’s an odd position to take on something supposedly so important that it required everyone’s support.  It also reveals the real partisan in House leadership.

Politically as well as economically, Republicans made the right choice in refusing to sign onto this stimulus package.  In the first place, only 12% of this bill has any actual stimulus value, and it comes too slowly to help.  The rest, filled mostly with historical Democratic spending priorities for government like family planning, education spending, and poverty programs, should have been handled through normal appropriations and not emergency economic stimulus spending, which it clearly is not.  If this package passes Congress and it works, the Democrats will get all the credit, as Pelosi especially ensured that Republicans couldn’t offer any of their ideas for improvements.  If it fails (and it surely will), the blame falls squarely on Obama, Pelosi, and Harry Reid, which is exactly what Obama hoped to avoid — and why the vote was actually more of a defeat than a victory.

So who did win yesterday?  John Boehner and Eric Cantor, and I’d argue especially Cantor.  He took the first major vote of the Republican wilderness era and managed to score a shutout, despite obvious impulses among some Republicans to appear cooperative with Obama.  They never let their discourse get hyperpartisan, and they continued to offer their own alternatives to the plan as well as invite House Democrats to negotiate the terms of the bill to win their support.  When that failed, the GOP stripped the Democrats of any bipartisan fig leaves, and managed to take eleven Blue Dog Democrats with them.

Some suggested that the Republicans couldn’t oppose it because they’d already lost their credibility on spending and accountability.  That’s rubbish.  One doesn’t regain credibility by refusing to take a stand on principle just because of mistakes made three years ago.  The way to build credibility on principle is to start acting on it.  Let’s hope Senate Republicans figure that out when the bill hits the upper chamber.


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GarandFan, i just saw your post above mine, and it looks like we’re on the same page here. Get our there GOP and explain to the American public (who for the most part don’t follow politics as closely as we do) why you voted NO!

jks16 on January 29, 2009 at 12:18 PM

In fact, it’s something of a defeat for Obama

Ahhh, so this is what victory looks like….

abobo on January 29, 2009 at 12:42 PM

Is there some way Cantor could get back on tv and complain about is feelings being hurt again? That was a sure political winner last time.

e-pirate on January 29, 2009 at 8:26 AM

My memories too. I failed to save a mailing from him during the election about a website to get ideas for the GOP. Some of the ideas floated at that website – to get readers started – raised flags. He has a blog and his solutions factory doesn’t have the stuff I received in the email.

No more ‘X’ for President shouts the first time ‘X’ disagrees with the Left. I have been taken in by the touchy feely before and look how Bush increased the illegal head count while emoting about no child left behind

entagor on January 29, 2009 at 12:56 PM

sorry, cantor solutions factory

entagor on January 29, 2009 at 1:00 PM

I haven’t seen Cantor in action, but on paper he seems to be everything the GOP needs to “rebuild the brand” after our recent defeat. Given the current political and cultural environment (where America seems to have bought into the MSM meme that conservatives are stupid AND evil), our leaders MUST have impeccable academic credentials and be able to articulate what this party is all about.

Palin and Huckabee are good people, I’m sure, but they play into everything the Dems and their supporters in the MSM want Americans to believe about the GOP. If this party is going to survive, it’ll be because of conservatives like Cantor and Michael Steele.

Infidoll on January 29, 2009 at 1:10 PM

all 177 House Republicans opposed the measure, arguing that it would spend hundreds of billions of dollars on initiatives that would do little to stimulate the economy. Eleven Democrats opposed the bill.

That is awesomely awesome.

Vashta.Nerada on January 29, 2009 at 1:13 PM

We can use them time for some good positive encouragement-if you have a minute or two-drop an email or telephone call to your representative and thank them and then reiterate that you will continue to support them if they stand against this kind of kraponomy. Noting especially after they make all the changes to it and try to pass it on to further votes. This could go far in letting them know you are paying attention to their every move-which is as it should be.

canditaylor68 on January 29, 2009 at 1:21 PM

cantor solutions factory

entagor on January 29, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Thanks for the link, entagor. Cantor was one of the people I thought looked interesting as a presidential or vice presidential candidate. I’m afraid McCain wasn’t nearly as interesting to me.

SheofTwoMinds on January 29, 2009 at 1:37 PM

It’s very hard for me to fully believe that these GOPs have really grown a pair.
I’ll believe it when I see them acting like that ALL THE TIME.

Badger40 on January 29, 2009 at 1:56 PM

It’s a good start after a long wait.

The question now is: Can they keep fighting against big spending and big government and most importantly, will they stand for small government Republican and conservative ideals if they ever get majority political power again.

RJL on January 29, 2009 at 2:00 PM

So you noticed too, Ed? Yeah! I’m calling Cantor’s Whip office this morning to tell them about your Democracy Day format that you initiated yesterday.
  
Cantor’s office seems to have a very UN-Republican grasp on new technology to stimulate the conservative grassroots effectively.
  
What if we got 5 UStream hosts to each produce a weekly show like Ed’s Democracy Day, one for each weekday? Pester the Dems EVERY DAY with polite yet revealing accountability questions? Then on one weekend day have a ‘guerrilla tech’ show to discuss other methods of using new tech to hold their feet to the fire.
  
See my latest post at http://watchcenter.blogspot.com for insight into Ed’s exciting new format that, properly managed, could have the Dems hyperventilating and trying to outlaw Ed’s powerful format when they pass the fairness doctrine.

ElRonaldo on January 29, 2009 at 2:11 PM

Very good start, and public opinion is starting to shift in opposition to this travesty. What I cannot understand is why the Republicans don’t do a lot more to explain their position to the American public. Their real message resonates with the public, the MSM and Dems misrepresentation of the republican message doesn’t.
It is crucial that the Republicans make big improvements in their communication effectiveness. The Dems with the help of the MSM have completely co-opted the message and have been able to create a totally distorted perception of reality.

neuquenguy on January 29, 2009 at 2:15 PM

Maybe they would get a clue and notice everytime they vote right, we send them in $10 to represent the 2010 elections. I got an email from the republican congressional committee or whatever asking for money to defeat nancy pelosi.

Do you think they would get a clue if we would to this in enough numbers? Just a thought

karenhasfreedom on January 29, 2009 at 3:16 PM

abobo on January 29, 2009 at 12:42 PM

Not a chess player, I take it.

Jim Treacher on January 29, 2009 at 4:18 PM

My problem is that
I wont believe anything that the repubicans do or say
for at least the next 12 months..

Hell if the republicans can even agree on their core principles and stay focused for 12 WEEKS
I would be shocked..

So i think it is way to early to see if ANY republicans have takend their BALLS back from
Pelozis purse where she has had them stored for the last year..

Republicans i say this
Only if and I mean ONLY IF you both stay true to real conservatism and at the same time use
Common sense (not to enrich your wall street friends)
while all of america is getting screwed in the ass

maybe just maybe you might get a few seats back
but now you have to earn that rigth.
For the next 2 years..

or else we wont just throw you all out..
We are prepared to take ALL of congress outside
and put them all on trial..
For TREASON..

jcila on January 29, 2009 at 4:22 PM

The GOP is coming back and it’s gaining steam.

Cr4sh Dummy on January 29, 2009 at 5:08 PM

Have the Republicans turned a corner?

I don’t think so, but it at least appears that they have for the first time in some time decided to follow Murphy’s First Rule of Holes.

Murphy9 on January 29, 2009 at 6:47 PM

What if we got … to each produce a weekly show like Ed’s Democracy Day, one for each weekday? Pester the Dems EVERY DAY with polite yet revealing accountability questions? Then on one weekend day have a ‘guerrilla tech’ show to discuss other methods of using new tech to hold their feet to the fire.

See my latest post at … for insight into Ed’s exciting new format that, properly managed, could have the Dems hyperventilating and trying to outlaw Ed’s powerful format when they pass the fairness doctrine.

ElRonaldo on January 29, 2009 at 2:11 PM

It still would be turned against you.

sethstorm on January 29, 2009 at 7:24 PM

The GOP is coming back and it’s gaining steam.

Cr4sh Dummy on January 29, 2009 at 5:08 PM

If they misread the Rust Belt like they did in the 1980′s, they’ll be running into another train at the end of a very long tunnel.

sethstorm on January 29, 2009 at 7:27 PM

The GOP needs to be going public (swimming upstream against the MSM rip tide) with the simple message “The Democrats just went Christmas shopping – with YOUR credit cards.”

bkr2c on January 29, 2009 at 8:08 PM

I think they are turning into the whig party.

getalife on January 29, 2009 at 8:43 PM

In fact, it’s something of a defeat for Obama
Ahhh, so this is what victory looks like….

abobo on January 29, 2009 at 12:42 PM

This is what a (small) Victory for the Amercian people looks like. Which party supports or opposes a particualr idea isn’t important relative to doing what is right, what is Constitutional, and what works. Don’t you agree?

Hopefully, our President will listen to those who know the best way to grow our Economy and create jobs and act accordingly. Then, he can have an individual ‘success’ but more importnatly we’ll all win.

Red State State of Mind on January 29, 2009 at 9:07 PM

bkr2c on January 29, 2009 at 8:08 PM

As the Republicans have sold our jobs to third world countries and illegal immigrants.

sethstorm on January 29, 2009 at 9:29 PM

Cantor – 2012

Dagnar on January 30, 2009 at 1:20 AM

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