'New Politics' Watch

By Dan Froomkin
12:58 PM ET, 01/30/2009

President Obama didn't get anything concrete in return for his recent attempts to woo Congressional Republicans. Every one of them voted against his stimulus bill on Wednesday.

But Linda Feldmann writes in the Christian Science Monitor: "By making very public overtures – traveling to Capitol Hill, inviting Republican members to the White House more than once, including to a cocktail party after Wednesday’s vote – he has already distinguished his administration sharply from those in recent memory, analysts say. And he’s begun work on the difficult task of remaking the highly partisan culture of Washington, as promised in his campaign."

Mimi Hall writes for USA Today that Obama is even "having members of Congress over to the White House to watch the Super Bowl.

"In just 10 days in office, President Obama has taken a host of steps to tamp down the often-harsh political tone in Washington and fulfill his promise to preside over a new era of civility."

Sam Youngman writes in The Hill: "White House spokesman Robert Gibbs portrayed the invitations as part of a continued effort by Obama to erase partisanship in Washington. Obama on Wednesday was rebuked by House Republicans, who unanimously voted against his stimulus bill.

"'Old habits die hard in the town, we get that,' Gibbs said. 'But the president understands that changing the way Washington works isn't likely to happen in just 10 days, but he believes that the time that he spent with Republicans … is a worthy investment of his time.'"

The USA Today editorial board writes: "It's deeply disappointing that at one of the most perilous times in the nation's modern history, House members, egged on by their leaders, reverted to the same tired, tribal partisanship that has long poisoned the House....

"Obama came to office promising to curb this kind of partisanship, and so far he has been walking the walk. He repeatedly consulted with Republicans and invited leaders from both parties to the White House for drinks after the vote. That's useful, because when political opponents spend time together, it's harder for them to misunderstand and demonize each other."

Asked to respond, House Minority Leader John Boehner wrote that the bill "did not meet President Obama's standard... The American people deserve better than what congressional Democrats have offered them. After Wednesday's vote, President Obama said, 'I hope that we can continue to strengthen this plan before it gets to my desk.' Republicans couldn't agree more. Let's hope Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill feel the same way."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote that "over the past two years we worked with President Bush when an issue's seriousness demanded that we put partisanship aside. But for Republicans, even in a time of crisis, cooperation has taken a back seat to ideological positioning."

Did Obama bring some of this upon himself? Perry Bacon Jr. and Paul Kane write in The Washington Post that he "gave Republicans incentive to oppose his bill, according to GOP aides who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly about internal party deliberations. In his private appearance with House Republicans on Tuesday, the new president acknowledged that the House version of the bill contained too much spending and indicated he was open to more tax breaks for small businesses. Obama suggested that fixes would be made in the Senate and during a House-Senate conference to work out differences between versions of the bill.

"Aides said Obama's signal that the final version would be more to their liking provided an incentive for wavering Republicans to vote against the bill, thereby winning kudos from conservatives while leaving them the option of voting for the final product."

Eugene Robinson writes in his Washington Post opinion column that the House Republicans have failed to recognize that one political era has given way to another. While Republicans continue to agitate for more tax cuts and fewer spending initiatives, Robinson writes, "Americans know that this philosophy has already taken us as far as it could. Americans know that taxes can be cut by only so much before the federal government's effectiveness inevitably suffers. Americans know that spending money doesn't necessarily mean wasting it. Americans know that the economic crisis means that taking the position that government is inherently oppressive, if not fundamentally evil, is now intellectually bankrupt, because government is the only instrument we have in the high-stakes attempt to induce financial and economic recovery."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company