I’m sure you’ve heard of this book: The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era. If you’re not, it’s time to get familiar.
The book description focuses on the stimulus bill, but the most interesting content for me is this:
On January 27, 2009, House Republican leader John Boehner opened his weekly conference meeting with an announcement: Obama would make his first visit to the Capitol around noon, to meet exclusively with Republicans about his economic recovery plan. “We’re looking forward to the President’s visit,” Boehner said.
The niceties ended there, as Boehner turned to the $815 billion stimulus bill that House Democrats had just unveiled. Boehner complained that it would spend too much, too late, on too many Democratic goodies. He urged his members to trash it on cable, on YouTube, on the House floor: “It’s another run-of-the-mill, undisciplined, cumbersome, wasteful Washington spending bill…I hope everyone here will join me in voting NO!”
“It was stunning that we’d set this up and before hearing from the President, they’d say they were going to oppose this,” Axelrod says. “Our feeling was, we were dealing with a potential disaster of epic proportions that demanded cooperation. If anything was a signal of what the next two years would be like, it was that.”
That’s David Axelrod on the Republican strategy to unanimously oppose the stimulus bill.
- *Vice President Biden told me that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any bipartisan cooperation on major votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican senators who said: ‘Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’” he recalled. His informants said McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was: ‘For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’” Biden said. The vice president said he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along those lines. “So I promise you—and the President agreed with me—I never thought we were going to get Republican support,” Biden said.
- * One Obama aide said he received a similar warning from a Republican Senate staffer he was seeing at the time. He remembered asking her one morning in bed: How do we get a stimulus deal. She replied: Baby, there’s no deal! “This is how we get whole,” she said with a laugh. “We’re going to do to you what you did to us in 2006.”
- * David Obey, then-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, met with his GOP counterpart, Jerry Lewis, to explain what Democrats had in mind for the stimulus and ask what Republicans wanted to include. “Jerry’s response was: ‘I’m sorry, but leadership tells us we can’t play,’” Obey told me. “Exact quote: ‘We can’t play.’ What they said right from the get-go was: It doesn’t matter what the hell you do, we ain’t going to help you. We’re going to stand on the sidelines and bitch.”
The Republican Party strategy was not just to refuse to participate, but to interfere with the President’s plan to fix the economy, so that they can get political payback.
All during a time of war.