Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bipartisanship Becomes A Dirty Word In Right Wing Politics As Obama Decides It's The Holy Grail


Teabaggers and insurance companies feel they won the midterms-- and they want healthcare ended NOW. (Well, not for Maryland Rep-elect Andy Harris, but for, you know... poor people.) The insurance companies, who ponied up immense sums of money to kill health care reform-- including $86.2 million they gave to the U.S. Chamber, in 2009 alone, to lobby and run vicious negative ads against Democrats-- are more patient than your garden variety teabagger.
The insurance lobby, whose members include Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Philadelphia-based Cigna Corp., gave the money to the Chamber in 2009 as Democrats were increasing their criticism of the industry, according to one person who requested anonymity because laws don’t require identifying funding sources. The Chamber of Commerce received the money from the Washington-based America’s Health Insurance Plans when the industry was urging Congress to drop a plan to create a competing public insurance option.

The spending exceeded the insurer group’s entire budget from a year earlier and accounted for 40 percent of the Chamber’s $214.6 million in 2009 spending. The expenditures reflect the insurers’ attempts to influence the bill after Democrats in Congress and the White House put more focus on regulation of the insurance industry.

The $86.2 million paid for advertisements, polling and grass roots events to drum up opposition to the bill that’s projected to provide coverage to 32 million previously uninsured Americans, according to Tom Collamore, a Chamber of Commerce spokesman. The Chamber used the funds to “advance a market- based health-care system and advocate for fundamental reform that would improve access to quality care while lowering costs,” it said in a statement.

Meanwhile the Republican freshmen, who won't actually be Members of Congress until January, are already being pressured by the teabaggers to unburden them from healthcare -- and they plan to make repeal of the healthcare reform bill their first priority, something more symbolic than anything else, given the fact that the Senate is still controlled by Democrats. Even if they fail to repeal it, they plan to completely defund it.
“It’s critical that we have that vote,” said Rep.-elect Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), who defeated longtime Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) earlier this month. “I think we need to tell the folks that we’re doing what they sent us here to do.” 

Like many newly elected Republicans, Griffith ran a campaign predicated on his opposition to the legislative priorities of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Obama, and he painted Boucher as one of their puppets in the House.

One of Griffith’s leading messages on the trail was a pledge to work for healthcare repeal, and that’s exactly where he wants the new Republican majority’s early focus to be.
“I think we vote to repeal first, send it over to the Senate and then we work on defunding [healthcare],” he said. 

Griffith is one of several incoming freshmen who said they want to prioritize a full repeal vote, both to send a clear message to Democrats and to follow through on their word to activists during the campaign.

Rep.-elect Frank Guinta (R-N.H.), who defeated Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) and led with an anti-Obama, healthcare-repeal message, agrees that a full repeal vote should be priority No. 1, but said the party needs to be ready for step two. 

“Procedurally, if it gets to the president’s desk and he vetoes it, the reality is that we don’t have the votes to override,” said Guinta. “So we’re going to have to work immediately after that to do three things: No. 1, reduce the cost of the overall bill. No. 2, eliminate the unconstitutional components of it. And No. 3, do what many people in this country wanted to see done in the first place, which is to reduce costs for employers and employees.” 

And in case anyone isn't getting the message, John Cornyn, newly reelected head of the NRSC, has warned mainstream conservatives to expect primary challenges from deranged teabaggers and ultra-reactionaries in 2012. Several conservatives are moving right-- but will they move right into Sharron Angle/Joe Miller/Christine O'Donnell territory? Olympia Snowe R-ME), Dick Lugar (R-IN). Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have all given up on any kind of a bipartisan approach and are moving sharply right to prepare for primary challenges in 2012.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of candidates running,” Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chairman, said Tuesday. “I’ve already told all of the incumbents to expect primaries and to get ready and to go and make sure you connect with your potential critics and people who don’t know what you’re doing up here on their behalf.

“I think everybody needs to be prepared for the new order of things,” he said.

Another incumbent working to do that is Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who has expanded his meetings with constituents after being dogged by a scandal involving the wife of a former aide.

Brian Darling, director of government relations at the Heritage Foundation, warned that Tea Party candidates will be looking to knock GOP incumbents out of office-- just as they did in the 2010 cycle.

“It seems that the Tea Party movement is prepared to replace what they see as establishment Republicans in conservative-leaning states with Tea Party candidates,” he said. “Although Senate Republicans look forward to 2012 as an opportunity to take control of the chamber, many in-cycle Republicans will be looking over their shoulders to see if Tea Party candidates decide to jump into primaries with these members.”

The National Review reported last week that Snowe would face an unnamed conservative primary challenger. And a recent Public Policy Polling survey found that 63 percent of Maine Republicans would favor replacing Snowe with a more conservative candidate.

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