Barack Obama had a meeting earlier today with a group of House Republican leaders to discuss the proposed stimulus bill.
He did as he had pledged in the campaign, and listened to them and tried to work something out with them. He's already cut down some of the infrastructure spending and as much as one third of the stimulus is likely to be tax cuts. He's spent some of his political capital taking on his own speaker over the issue of whether to repeal the Bush tax cuts or not (she wants to repeal them immediately, Obama in seeking Republican support has said he's not ready to just yet.) But the Republican leaders kept on pushing and pushing and pushing, wanting to change more and more things in the bill and simultaneously hinting that no matter what the bill says they might play hardball in the house and marshall Republicans to oppose it. Finally, Obama could see that unless he practically let them write the bill themselves they wouldn't accept or agree to support whatever he gave them, so he got up, looked directly at them and said, "I won."
It was not a sign of frustration at all. He's reminding them of a simple fact. The American people voted in November and gave him a mandate to change course. His share of the vote and winning margin were both the most any Presidential candidate in twenty years (in fact his share of the vote was the highest for any non-incumbent candidate and non-sitting Vice President running for the top job, in over sixty years.) Add to that the fact that in addition to Obama they voted in seven or eight new Senators (depending on what happens in Minnesota) and twenty-one house members, for a net gain of 54 house seats over the past two election cycles. Republicans put their ideas and candidates out there, and they lost. Pure and simple.
Under the circumstances, President Obama is being very generous and doing something he doesn't have to do, and offering the house Republicans a seat at the table and some input into writing this bill. But the party which not so long ago believed they had a 'permanent majority,' and even over the past two years could usually count on a Presidential veto to back them up in Congress, now has neither.
They need to get used to being the minority party because they lost. We won ('we' instead of 'I' is the only change I believe Obama should have made.) The President has reached out to them and offered them something that quite frankly, President Bush never did anything like that. They can choose between accepting what he gives them or opposing everything. But they no longer have the power and influence to insist on anything.