Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ex-White House Spokesman Robert Weiner Asks, 'If There Were Reagan Democrats in the '80s, Why Can't There be Obama Republicans Now?' Roll Call Op-ed

/PRNewswire/ -- Ex-White House spokesman Robert Weiner, and policy analysts Jonathan Battaglia and Noah Merksamer, are asking, "If there were Reagan Democrats in the '80s, why can't there be Obama Republicans now?"

In an op-ed in today's Roll Call, they assert that "In today's politics, bipartisanship seems like a distant memory. It was not always like this.

"Until the 1990s, we had consensus by issue, not by party -- fierce opposition and strong support, but not based primarily on party lines." Weiner traces the history of large minority votes on historic issues as contentious as today's -- Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights, and show their contrast to almost no minority votes on recent budgets, tax cuts, health care, the economy, and financial reform.

"In 1935, 92 percent of Congress voted for the Social Security Act, including 81 Republicans in the House. There were dissenters -- Rep. Daniel Reed (R-N.Y.) said that with Social Security, Americans would 'feel the lash of a dictator.' Sen. Daniel Hastings (R-Del.) declared that Social Security would 'end progress.' Yet the measure passed 77-6 in the Senate, 382-33 in the House.

"The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did away with segregation. 70 percent voted 'aye,' including 136 Republicans in the House and 21 in the Senate. Republicans and Southern Democrats crossed party lines on both sides of the issue -- they were voting on the issue, not the party regimen.

"When Congress was debating Medicare in 1965, Sen. Carl Curtis (R-Neb.) called the program 'brazen socialism' -- sound familiar? Yet 72 percent of Congress supported Medicare's creation, including 70 Republicans in the House.

"Under former Speaker Tip O'Neill (D), the Reagan tax cuts passed in 1981 with 48 Democrats supporting it. In addition, O'Neill and Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.) were able to keep Congress from slashing Social Security benefits amid President Reagan's cuts in domestic spending. Reagan and House Republicans were part of governing with bipartisanship.

"In contrast, last year's health care reform did not receive a single Republican vote in the House or Senate on final passage. Despite the bill's use of private insurance, no public option, no Medicare buy-in and 160 Republican amendments in the bill such as tax breaks for 95 percent of small businesses, the minority would not give the Democrats a vote. Democrats weren't flawless -- they let partisanship get in the way of including medical malpractice reform, despite Obama's public support for it. Regardless, in the past, a bill with such broad-based compromises would have received 30 to 100 Republican House votes on passage and 10 to 30 in the Senate.

"Only three Republicans in the Senate voted for Wall Street reform in July, despite the financial meltdown, and despite broad minority participation in the drafting.

"This recent unwillingness to compromise began in 1994, with the rise of former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and the Contract With America. Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) earned the nickname 'The Hammer' because he punished those who did not support George W. Bush. The leadership triumvirate of DeLay, Gingrich and Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) would not allow Republican Congressmen to vote against the party only on major issues -- exactly the time to express one's conscience."

Weiner, Battaglia, and Merksamer conclude by asking, "If there were Reagan Democrats in the '80s, why can't there be Obama Republicans now?"

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