Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Splitting the Legislative Right

There seems to be a niggling doubt creeping into Republican public comments on the narrative of themselves as the obstructionist party of ‘no.’  While it was pointed out recently that the Republican base is quite happy with this tactic it appears that some incumbents are having second thoughts as to how this increasingly widespread perception is playing out in their own constituencies, though it is still pretty thin on the ground:

Congressional Republicans are divided on how to change the public’s perception that they are not working with President Barack Obama.

According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted earlier this month, 58 percent of the 1,004 respondents said Republicans have not reached out enough to Obama.

Molly K Hooper – Republicans divided on how to counter ‘party of no’ reputation in poll The Hill 14 Feb 10

Divided is good.  And though it seems to be taking a while to sink in, it appears that the fallout from Obama’s performance in Maryland is proving slightly radioactive to public opinion and Republican strategy.  At least in the House.  There even seems to be some traction elsewhere:

In a blow to Republican insistence that they have played a non-obstructionist role in slowing down the Democratic legislative agenda, one of the GOP’s senior senators acknowledged on Sunday that his party had gone too far in holding up presidential nominees.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the blanket hold that his colleague, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), placed last week on all of President Obama’s nominees “wrong.”

Sam Stein – Richard Shelby Was ‘Wrong’ To Place Blanket Hold On Obama Nominees Huffington Post 14 Feb

It’s very encouraging to see increasingly conflicted messages emerging from the usually lockstep Republicans.

An example of obstructionism thwarted emerged around Republican opposition to repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which the Obama administration mooted recently.  Taking an ambivalent stance, they risk tacitly positioning themselves against the current decision makers in the US military.  This is new territory for Republicans and many must have felt they had gotten into the weeds:

The conundrum facing all of these Republican leaders is simple: coming out against the repeal of the DADT policy now would represent a de facto admission that the opinions of the military brass never really mattered in the first place.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll suddenly support the repeal. In fact, in a widely observed reversal yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that he was “disappointed” in Mullen’s testimony, and expressed concerns that overturning DADT at a time of “immense hardship for our armed services” would be problematic.

This despite the fact that he once declared that: “the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it.”

Sam Stein – Mullen Testimony On DADT Puts Senior Republicans In A Bind Huffington Post 3 Feb 10

It seems increasingly clear that the White House and progressive pundits sense an opportunity here.  The ‘ribbon cutting’ narrative in Obama’s question-and-answer session has reappeared on several occasions since:

A heated exchange took place during NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday when MSNBC host Rachel Maddow accused Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) of hypocrisy for railing against a spending bill in public while touting its benefits in his home district.

Appearing alongside each other during a panel session, Maddow pivoted from a discussion on job creation to note that Schock had appeared at an event on Friday touting a grant program that he had voted against.

Sam Stein – Rachel Maddow Stuns Rep. Aaron Schock By Calling Out His Spending Hypocrisy Huffington Post 14 Feb 10

If that is ‘stunning’ then so be it.  The upshot?  So far business as usual:

WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans are using the filibuster to limit and often derail Democrats’ initiatives, paralyzing the Senate and making it nearly impossible to accomplish even the most routine matters.

The filibuster strategy “makes the Senate dysfunctional,” said Mark Strand, the president of the Congressional Institute, a nonpartisan research group. That, in turn, blocks the Obama administration’s agenda, but it also sours public opinion on Washington, with polls showing clear public disdain for Congress in particular. Republicans think voters will reward them for that in November.

David Lightman – Senate Republicans: Filibuster everything to win in November? McClatchy 12 Feb 10

Though there seem to be some early, if not particularly significant, defections:

GOP Sen. Bob Corker said he “absolutely” would be willing to buck his party to pass a bill cracking down on financial market abuses and creating new rules to prevent firms from becoming “too big to fail.”

The Tennessean, who is in the middle of his first Senate term, and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd of Connecticut, announced Thursday that they would negotiate the wide-ranging legislation. The move came after Dodd reached an impasse with the panel’s top Republican.

Corker, in an interview to run on C-SPAN on Sunday, suggested the regulatory overhaul discussions on Capitol Hill have not always been in good faith. “Do you want to get to ‘yes’ or do you want to get to ‘no’ as quickly as possible?” Corker said, suggesting he believes he and Dodd can craft legislation that receives “overwhelming” support from members of both parties.

Michael Crittenden – Corker: Willing to Be Sole GOP Vote on Financial Overhaul WSJ 12 Feb 10

One wonders if it is worth holding the health care reform vote for a period to let this narrative take firm hold.  It certainly seems to be a message that the mainstream media have gotten their teeth into and so worth pushing at all levels.  One may be forgiven for supposing we are on to something here.


  1. Is it shocking to anyone that – after dominating the public political landscape through 2008, the Dem curve would bend downward?  Is it amazing that what the GOP has made of this opportunity is not itself eternal, but rather a curve of it’s own?

    One would think that very savvy political observers would put this together.  It seems to me that Obama knew that Jan 20, 2009 was going to be the peak of that curve and that the next stretch was downhill.  The concurrent uphill slope for the right (hard to say “GOP”, because the TP is not imo any good for the GOP) also had a fairly predictable run.  And I think it has pretty well come to it’s own peak.

  2. I heard Cheney on tv while I was cooking dinner. I didn’t pay any attention to it, except to note that the media is still giving him a soapbox.

    I’m wondering if those latest polls are starting to affect the media’s belief in their own narrative and, for that matter, the GOP’s own view of how successful their strategy will be in the long run.

  3. Shaun Appleby

    Josh Marshall makes some interesting points about ‘gridlock’ and messaging, emphasis added:

    Since we had a lot of discussion of it earlier today, I wanted to return to this issue of the Democrats and “up or down votes” — my comments and also TPM Reader JO‘s.  

    What I do think is that the Democrats — whether you want to talk about the White House or the Senate — have done virtually nothing to communicate to the electorate why nothing is getting passed. Yes, if you’re watching closely you know. But mainly the people who are watching closely aren’t up for grabs.


    So would things be different if the Dems took a different, more aggressive tack? At first at least, probably not — if we mean Republicans buckling and allowing majority votes. And maybe not at second or third either. But the public would have a much clearer idea of what is happening. And that would put the Democrats in a very different position politically. I cannot but thinking that this is a self-inflicted wound of the gravest and most unnecessary magnitude.

    Josh Marshall – Messaging to Oblivion TPM 14 Feb 10

    I’m not a big critic of Obama but that’s hard to argue against.

  4. HappyinVT

    and they might have overshot themselves.  It’s one thing to put a hold on a specific nominee (say, Dawn Johnsen) because of specific concerns but to put a hold on virtually all nominees for what some might consider pork projects might just have been going a bit too far.

    I read somewhere yesterday that Tim Geithner isn’t gong anywhere not just because Obama may want to keep him but because the president couldn’t be sure he could get another Treasury Secretary confirmed before the next presidential election.  There are a number of high-ranking positions still open at Treasury while people wait confirmation.  I’d guess we still don’t have a head of TSA, either.  Dems should be inserting this stuff into every conversation.  The Treasury and TSA folks go to the heart of the financial system and national security.  

  5. Shaun Appleby

    There are those who didn’t ‘get the memo:’

    The invitations had barely landed in Congressional inboxes before Republican leadership started calling President Obama’s upcoming White House health care summit a “backroom deal.”

    The Obama administration’s invitation to the Feb. 25 summit informs members that text of a “proposed health insurance reform package” will be posted online before the meeting. A White House official tells TPMDC that the text will be the product of the discussions that have been ongoing between the House and Senate since each chamber passed their bills last year.

    That’s the sticking point for the GOP, who say Obama is inviting them to a meeting but doesn’t really want their ideas if he already has a draft bill.

    “A productive bipartisan discussion should begin with a clean sheet of paper,” Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said in a statement this weekend.

    Christina Bellantoni – GOP Decries Obama Strategy For Health Care Summit And Calls For Starting Over TPM 15 Feb 10

    I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t a serious misreading of the national mood, particularly in light of the prominence of the 39% Anthem Blue Cross rate hike in the media recently, as Happy pointed out above.

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