Posted Thursday, April 14, 2011, at 12:04 PM
How to read this: Like the last continuing resolution, the long-term CR agreed upon by both parties will pass without 218 Republicans supporting it. In his weekly briefing Boehner all but acknowledged that he would need Democrats to pass the bill. Chad Pergram of Fox News asked the obvious question, politely: What did this say about his conference, if he needed Democrats to pass big bills?
"It's a bipartisan agreement to cut the spending," said Boehner, slowly and deliberately. "And while we had to grab them kicking and screaming to the table, we finally secured these budget cuts from them. And I believe it will pass with bipartisan support."
The easy Washington spin on this is something like "Boehner can't even control his caucus!" But we've known for a very long time that the Republican conference included a lot of rebels who would never support anything less than they promised that crowd at that Tea Party rally in the parking lot outside Jim's Godfather's Pizza franchise. It's pretty uninteresting that Boehner is losing some Republicans on votes.
Think about the bigger picture. A huge problem for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in 2009 and 2010 was that Republicans were united against them. There was no bipartisan buy-in on things like the stimulus and health care reform. And voters like bipartisan bills more than they like partisan bills. Mitch McConnell explained the thinking behind this to Joshua Green, in an interview that touched on the "obstructionism" of the Senate GOP.
We thought—correctly, I think—that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the 'bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.
The choices Boehner was faced with were 1) partisanship that would have scuttled the deal and gotten the shutdown blamed on Republicans and 2) bipartisanship that prevented a shutdown. A bipartisan vote for the CR gives Democrats a buy-in; Republicans can blame the bad parts on their intransigence, while basking in the glow of a deal that most of the country supports. Does the country know exactly what's in it? Oh, of course not. But it knows there's a