GOP Denies ‘Party of No’ Label

Posted February 14, 2009 at 6:02am

The party that has twice unified to oppose Democratic-authored economic stimulus legislation is neither the party of no, nor a party defined by its unanimous opposition to the new president’s agenda. At least, according to House Republicans. During a press conference following Friday’s vote on the economic stimulus bill, House Republican leaders took to the podium to praise the decision of their 176 members to reject the stimulus bill for the second time and for “standing on principle.” “I said on the opening day that we wouldn’t be the party of ‘no’ and we haven’t been,” said Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), standing next to a copy of the nearly 1,100-page bill he and his colleagues had received the night before. “We think we have a better idea that really will create jobs and put money back into the hands of the American people.” But being the party of better ideas may only get them so far: House Republicans’ double-digit deficit in the 111th Congress leaves GOPers with scant leverage to influence unfavorable legislation. That is, unless Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats follow through on their stated intent to return to “regular order” and, by crafting future legislation in committee, create opportunities for bipartisan deal-making. Republicans say they hope that is the case. Asked who had to give more to achieve bipartisanship, Boehner said he was acutely aware of his of Conference’s diminished numbers. “We understand they have the votes,” he said. “If they are not willing to take any of our ideas to work with us in any way – you can’t blame us, they are the majority.” But voting no – despite the caveats – has been the GOP strategy so far. During the stimulus debate, Democrats criticized Boehner for advising his Conference to vote no on the original House stimulus bill before President Barack Obama sat down with House Republicans to discuss the legislation. And heading into Friday’s vote on the conference report, when Republicans faced greater danger of losing their moderates, GOP leaders urgently reminded the Conference behind closed door that there was safety in voting no. Boehner and his leadership team have maintained that through developing constructive alternatives, House Republicans are not simply being contrarians and instead are contributing to the marketplace of ideas. “There have been two big bills this year thus far, the children’s health care bill and the stimulus bill, and in both cases we developed alternatives that we thought were better solutions for the American people, better solutions for American families and small businesses,” Boehner said. Boehner added, “And I always thought being in the majority it was actually in the interest in the majority to be bipartisan.” Following their victory on the stimulus, House Democratic leaders were asked Friday if the votes foreshadowed solid Republican opposition to their initiatives. They were less than unified in their response: Pelosi shook her head “no,” but Hoyer took to the podium to say, “What I would like to say on that issue is that the polls reflect that 65 percent or more of the American public wanted this bill to pass … I think as the Republicans hear from the American public I’m hopeful they will join us because there is much left to be done.” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) issued a release saying that Republicans would pay a political price for their opposition. “House Republicans are fast becoming party of No-bama,” he said in the statement. “Americans will hold Republicans accountable for being the party of no — no to President Obama’s economic recovery, no to children’s health care, and no to equal pay for women doing equal work.” Boehner said Members who stood on principle and voted in line with their districts’ wishes would not be punished at the polls. “At the end of the day our job here is to represent the American people, is to do our best for the American people, and I think the product here that we have today is not our best effort on behalf of American families and small business,” Boehner said. Asked whether a ‘no’ vote on the stimulus would help a Member such as freshman Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-La.), who represents a heavily Democratic district, Boehner said, “All of us have districts, all of us have to make decisions about whether this bill overall is the right thing for our constituents, I made my decision, he made his.”