The Note, 1/29/09: No Contest — GOP Finds a Voice as Opposition Party, But Who Has More at Stake?

By Caitlin Taylor

Jan 29, 2009 8:00am

By RICK KLEIN

As President Obama said, there are a lot of numbers in the stimulus bill. But the number that may be remembered most of all from Wednesday’s vote in the House is zero.

That’s a goose egg in the first inning of bipartisanship — at least as recorded on Obama’s scorecard. (The GOP spin, in unison, is that Republicans were the bipartisan ones, having grabbed 11 Democrats in voting against the bill.)

The visits and the calls and the cocktail hour ended with a win that left an old taste — one that doesn’t bode well for the president’s promises of a new kind of politics. (And leaves Democrats defending every provision in a hulking mess of a piece of legislation; said one GOP leadership aide, “The bill’s like a fish: the longer it sits out there, the more it stinks.”)

But that zero looms large for Republicans, too. As they gather in Washington to select the new RNC chairman, Rush Limbaugh gets his way: They’re settling on opposition to Obama as an organizing principle.

Outright opposition to the president would eventually become the Democrats’ ticket back to the majority. But President Bush was at a much different point in his presidency than Obama is today.

“Congressional Republicans hoping to rebound from a second straight drubbing at the polls have placed a very large bet against the [$819] billion stimulus package that is the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s early agenda,” Roll Call’s Steven T. Dennis and Shira Toeplitz report. “The 244-188 vote led by Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is fraught with political risk. Boehner has sought to avoid the label of the ‘party of no’ and push alternatives, but his Conference appears unwilling to back anything but another round of tax cuts.” 

(Though quotes like this have a weird way of giving the opposition a voice, “It feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless and heals the sick,” said freshman Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla.)

Depending on how you frame it, Republicans just voted against creating 3 million new jobs, not to mention a popular president who is trying really hard to be bipartisan. Or they voted against an overstuffed, $819 billion collection of pork and assorted goodies that won’t really help an ailing economy.

You could throw up your hands and call it all politics as usual. But that, in itself, is a blow for the president who promised to clear away all of that.

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