New Congress At War Over Everything
By Patrick O'Connor
In a closed-door meeting before the last vote on the children’s health care bill, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer appealed for the support of about 30 wavering Republican lawmakers. What he got instead was a tongue-lashing, participants said.
The GOP lawmakers, all of whom had expressed interest in a bipartisan deal on the SCHIP legislation, were furious that the Democratic leader from Maryland had not reached out to them in a more serious way early on. They also criticized him and Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois for failing to stop his allies outside Congress from running attack ads in their districts, while they were discussing a bipartisan deal.
The result was a predictable one for this bitterly divided Congress. The House vote for a second SCHIP bill was a healthy majority, but not the two-thirds needed to override another veto vowed by President Bush. Only one Republican switched his vote — to oppose the measure.
Democrats accused Republicans of hurting kids. Republicans howled about a heavy-handed, uncompromising Democratic majority. And another chance at bipartisan consensus slipped away.
“They spent $1.5 million through their various shill outreach groups attacking me and a handful of my colleagues,” Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.) said before the Hoyer meeting, “but they did not spend five minutes to approach me to ask for my vote.”
This us-against-them mentality has been an ongoing storyline of the new Democratic-controlled Congress. On the big items — Iraq, health care and spending — party leaders have shunned compromise.