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Posted at 04:54 PM ET, 03/27/2012

The tragic death of bipartisan compromise

So Olympia Snowe, in an extraordinary act of candor, has confessed that she’s really upset with President Obama for not calling her often enough during the past two years. She says Obama deserves a failing grade when it comes to his willingness to work with Republicans — and that things would be far better if he had tried harder.

When Snowe recently announced her retirement, and blamed it on the sad death of bipartisan compromise in Washington, a lot of commentators agreed that her retirement signaled something very tragic indeed. Snowe is continually granted the benefit of the doubt on these matters. She is credulously accorded the label of “moderate willing to work with Obama,” based mainly on her vote for the stimulus, and on her supposed work with Dems to pass health care reform, before “partisanship” on both sides somehow forced her to oppose the final bill.

Alex Pareene corrects the record:

How hard did she try, again? If I recall correctly, she intentionally delayed the process for months before finally voting against a plan she’d previously voted for, never making a single substantive criticism of the policy of the bill in the fear that her criticism would then be addressed by Democrats and she’d be forced to come up with a new reason to oppose the bill, because it turns out she didn’t actually want to vote for healthcare reform, and she would not have supported any plan to expand coverage to all Americans, no matter how it worked.
So this is the problem. In the popular imagination, and in Barack Obama’s naive pre-2010 fantasies, “bipartisanship” means “working together to accomplish things.” In reality, in the Senate, it means “indulging moderates, forever.” For Olympia Snowe, the act of calling Olympia Snowe is more important than the act of … passing legislation to solve problems.

The Affordable Care Act is based on a policy idea that had been embraced by prominent Republicans for two decades, before Jim DeMint decided that defeating it would constitute Obama’s “Waterloo,” and before Mitch McConnell decided that denying Obama bipartisan support for all of his proposals was a paramount strategic goal. In ultimately opposing health reform, Snowe threw her lot in with DeMint and McConnell.

More broadly, Snowe joined other moderate Republicans, such as Susan Collins, in voting against Obama’s plan to create jobs through infrastructure spending, even though Reublicans had previously endorsed the idea that such spending helps the economy.

After claiming to be undecided, Collins voted for the Blunt amendment to undo Obama’s contraception compromise, even though polls have shown that it’s supported by broad majorities, including of independents and Catholics. Scott Brown, another independent moderate, voted for it too. Fellow moderate GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski, who also voted for it, subsequently admitted this vote had betrayed moderation.

If bipartisan compromise is dead in Washington, then maybe it has something to with the fact that self proclaimed moderate Republicans simply stopped supporting any proposals that could reasonably be labeled bipartisan compromises.

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Update: Post edited for accuracy.

By  |  04:54 PM ET, 03/27/2012

 
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