Thursday, July 01, 2010

Bipartisanship, One Way

David Broder, who has been overrated for almost as long as Betty White has been alive, was half right yesterday. He used his syndicated column praising the recently-deceased Robert Byrd (who should be praised) as a cudgel to promote his favorite cause, bipartisanship. He wrote

Today, unfortunately, on the big issues that ought to be beyond partisanship, action in the national interest has almost vanished because the party leaders, unlike Byrd and Baker when they led their parties in the Senate, do not display that consciousness or evoke it in others.

On financial industry reform as in health care and stimulus legislation: haven't we seen this movie before? The Associated Press reports that Massachusetts Senator Scott

Brown scored an exemption for home-state interests like Fidelity Investments and the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. from some new restrictions on trading. He also persuaded congressional negotiators to let banks invest up to 3 percent of their capital in private equity funds and hedge funds, a change that would help such banks as Boston-based State Street Corp.

Then this week, Democrats bowed to a more philosophical demand that knowledgeable officials say was choreographed by

Republican leader Mitch McConnell. On Tuesday, Democratic negotiators agreed to remove a $19 billion tax on large banks and hedge funds after Brown threatened to vote "no" because of it.

Brown wouldn't say whether the concession was enough to win his vote. And he made clear that he wouldn't make that decision in time to pass the bill and deliver it to President Barack Obama by Independence Day.

"Over the July recess, I will continue to review this important bill," Brown said in a statement.

This is yet another episode of one-way bipartisanship from the Obama Production Company. One party compromises, compromises, and compromises some more- including on its principles (we must, after all, praise The Dean of Washington Journalists). The other party responds "thanks, but I'm not so sure. Maybe next time."

Senate Democratic leadership cannot be held blameless, of course. It seems only sensible- or prudent, as Bush 41 would have put it- to have elicited assurance from the Senate's newest Republican that he would vote in favor of the legislation before giving him a sweetheart deal for local insurance interests. Burned once, leadership should have received a promise from Brown before agreeing to change the funding mechanism, one which was programatically and politically wise. It's another round of fool me once, shame on you- fool me twice, shame on me.

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