President Obama has said repeatedly that he wants to reach out to Republicans.
He's also put actions behind those words. He kept George Bush's Defense Secretary, Bill Gates, on the job. He named Republican representative Ray LaHood as Transportation Secretary (George Bush had a Democrat, Norman Mineta as Transportation Secretary, but Mineta was the only Democrat in the Bush cabinet, while with Gates, LaHood was Obama's second Republican.) He appointed another Republican, retired General James Jones, as his National Security Advisor.
Obama made the trek back to Capitol Hill to hold several meetings with only Republicans (something previous Presidents had not done, insisting that members of the opposition party, especially when they were in the minority, come to the White House instead for consultations and then accompanied by members of the majority party.)
He included billions of dollars worth of tax cuts in the stimulus proposal, despite angering some members of his own party.
He asked Republican Senator Judd Gregg to become the third Republican in his cabinet, as Commerce Secretary. After a bit more than a week as the presumptive appointee, Gregg withdrew his name.
Now, I don't blame a lot of Republicans for voting against the stimulus bill. If someone fundamentally disagrees with something for ideological reasons then they absolutely should vote against it. I understand that and I can respect that.
Rather, what has bothered me is a report on today not only saying that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell was disappointed with three RINOs who agreed to support a watered-down stimulus bill, but that apparently there was a plan afoot to vote as a bloc against the bill specifically and for the singular purpose of sticking Obama with a defeat.
What this says is that the GOP in Washington, rather than agreeing with the President that the voters expect everyone to work together to solve problems, are still playing partisan games. The only bullet they have left is a 41-Senator solid bloc sticking behind a filibuster, but instead of using it once or twice when it might prevail, the GOP leadership intends to force the issue more often, even if it is difficult to get all the rinos to hold the line with them.
As Democrats we should be careful though. First, let's get this straight-- a Rino is still a Republican, and is even less a friend of ours than, say, Joe Lieberman. They may be pursuadable on specific issues but if we had 60 Democrats in the Senate the whole question of how far to cut the stimulus would be moot, and we'd have gotten a better bill.
Second, Rinos are notoriously erratic and unpredictable. For example, the prototypical Rino, John McCain, was squarely against the stimulus bill. He might be pursuadable on issues like torture or immigration, on the other hand. But I don't like being in the position of having to depend on a John McCain or an Arlen Spectre or a Susan Collins to be the tie-breaking vote.
Third, as we saw on the stimulus bill, there is a price for support from Rinos. Maybe it is such an emergency that this price was necessary but it still may not achieve a big enough jolt to the economy, thanks to RINO's cutting things out of the bill and diluting it with more tax cuts.
In 2008, Nancy Pelosi's House, though increasing the Democratic margin by a modest number, crossed a key benchmark when the size of the majority outnumbered the number of 'Blue Dog' Democrats. That meant that the conservative caucus no longer can pull the entire House to the right by defining the center.
That doesn't mean that the congressional leadership should ignore the blue dogs, but they also no longer have to bend over for them, and they shouldn't. Listen, let them be involved, incorporate any good ideas they have. But don't let them hold the Democratic Congress hostage. Somewhat similarly, looking especially at the Senate, it would be good if we were able to ignore RINO's. Right now there is little choice-- even if Al Franken pulls out a win in Minnesota, Democrats will still need a vote from a Republican whenever Senator McConnell decides to try and filibuster (which seems to be on most votes.) Rinos may be the most likely ones to crossover, but if it's not such an emergency I hope our leadership remembers that in this election and last, it was Republican ideas that the American people rejected, not Democratic ones.