In his Sunday "Congressional Memo," "Legislative Hurdles in an Era Of Conflict, Not Compromise," reporter Carl Hulse interviewed liberal Democrat Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, who scolded Republicans for refusing to "compromise" - that is, to vote for Democratic legislation.
Democrats lecturing Republicans is one of Hulse's favorite subjects.
It was a little-noted vote on an unremarkable bill, but it spoke volumes about the current state of Congress.
The House was considering a measure to give tax advantages to small businesses, debating the sort of imperfect but well-intentioned legislation that would have previously breezed through since it was aimed at a favored constituency of both parties and provided tangible benefits in a rocky economy. And it was paid for.
But the final vote of 247 to 170 broke almost strictly along party lines, with only five Republicans voting for the measure even though a senior Republican responsible for tax issues acknowledged that there were positive aspects to the bill. Instead, Republicans offered an alternative that would have repealed a central element of the new health care law, a proposal that had zero chance of passing but made for a good political attack.
The outcome left Representative Sander M. Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, scolding his colleagues across the aisle. "You say you agree with these provisions, but then you're going to vote no," he said as the floor fight wrapped up. "You just don't apparently want to be caught being bipartisan. It's going to blur the political message."
Hulse forwarded a presidential plea for bipartisanship, as if Obama is some impartial player above the partisan political fray:
In his weekly address on Saturday, President Obama made note of the impasse, saying he was "disappointed this week to see a dreary and familiar politics get in the way of our ability to move forward on a series of critical issues that have a direct impact on people's lives."
Addressing the unwillingness of Republicans to allow a vote on extending jobless benefits, Mr. Obama said that "if this obstruction continues, unemployed Americans will see their benefits stop.
Representative Michael N. Castle of Delaware, one of the five Republicans to back the tax plan and one of just three to vote for a small-business loan program a few days later, said the gulf between the parties had grown so wide that most Republicans simply refused to vote for any Democratic legislation.
But as Mr. Castle conceded, politics are at work as well. If Republicans were to vote for Democratic legislation, it would represent a tacit acknowledgment that some Democratic ideas merit support - not the message Republicans want to send right now. They are working hard to portray Democrats as inept and themselves as a worthy alternative.
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