Senate Republicans are forcing the Democrats to take an extra week to pass a bill whose passage we now know is inevitable. Why sacrifice their own family Christmas Eves for a tasteless political play destined to fail? (Or for that matter, their party's future?)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) may have just given us our answer. It would seem that the Republican Senate Caucus, or at least Dr. Coburn, isn't so convinced that the final passage is inevitable. Oh, they're resigned to the fact that 60 Democrats support the bill. But that doesn't mean they're resigned to the fact that 60 Democrats will still be alive by Christmas Eve, or at least healthy. Shades of Pat Robertson and the Supreme Court on the Senate floor last night:
Was Tom Coburn saying let's pray that Robert Byrd has a bad night? To be fair, he was probably saying he hopes that some random Democrat gets stuck in an unplowed DC side street, and indeed, a spokesperson claims he was hoping a Democrat might "hit the snooze button one too many times". And that's not sinister or cruel. Undemocratic, yes, and thus perhaps a touch unpatriotic, but certainly not sinister. But as Dick Durbin points out, that's not exactly what Coburn said on the floor, no matter what a staffer says later.
Unlike many in the Netroots, I'm a fan of bipartisanship. I think it makes sense to reach out to the entire country and its representation when crafting a bill. I was appalled by Tom DeLay's tactics of intentionally passing every bill on as razor thin a margin as possible, and even now believe that progressives and Democrats won't be in the majority forever. But that said, bipartisanship can only go so far. I think Max Baucus and Barack Obama started out with the right approach but stuck to it for far too long. Bipartisanship is a wonderful tool, but policy results are the goal, regardless of the final tools used.
The American people, I think and hope, agree with me: they want bipartisanship, but they want results even more, and as such the Republicans won't benefit from Coburn's "prayers". The voters have said loud and clear that they want bipartisanship, but quips like Coburn's and votes like the Defense Approps bill make it, as my mother would say, "obvious to the most casual observer" that the reason the health bill isn't half as good as it could have been, and the reason that it will pass on exact party lines, isn't because of partisan Democrats but because of obstructionist Republican tactics. They'll gain a few seats in 2010, yes, of course. But I think if they continue to be the intentional Party of No, refusing to let this country work, they will find themselves affected by the "obstructionist" label the same way in 2012 and 2014 that Tom Daschle was in 2004. I can't for the life of me figure out why Coburn and Co. think this helps their cause. Beck and his movement will fade and the right-wing will be left with nothing more than a record of voting against troop funding and praying for old men to fall down at politically strategic moments.