A radicalized GOP seems incapable of bipartisanship

Dec 21, 2012

What lies before us is not the defeat of Speaker Boehner’s so-called Plan B — a dead on arrival proposal on the impending fiscal cliff with no bipartisan support — but instead the culmination of the radicalization of the Republican Party.

What is the evidence?

We are less than two weeks away from the fiscal cliff, an event that according to nonpartisan experts such as the Congressional Budget Office will send our nation back into recession. Instead of continuing his negotiations with the President to find a compromise solution to avoid this economic disaster, Speak Boehner wasted three precious days in a failed effort to take a symbolic vote within his caucus. Plan B was so divisive within his own caucus that it was promoted with the bizarre claim that voting to let tax cuts expire on incomes over $1 million was not a tax increase because tax rates were going up automatically on Jan. 1, while simultaneously claiming that doing the same for incomes above $250,000 was the biggest tax increase in history. 

Further evidence? In a desperate effort to win over Tea Party Republicans at the last moment, the Speaker added "Plan C" — a plan to avoid mainly defense cuts through sequestration by substituting these cuts with deep and harmful cuts in domestic programs impacting children, seniors and disabled.  And, of course, making compromise all the more unlikely by adding provisions aimed at dismantling health care reform and Wall Street reform.

And still, at the end of the day, Republicans walked away from the Speaker. Now he is faced with a fateful choice for his party and for the nation:  Are there enough Republicans in the House capable of governing?  Are there Republicans capable of reaching across the aisle, across the Capitol and down Pennsylvania Avenue to forge a bipartisan solution that doesn’t satisfy everyone in either party but can pass in the House through a combination of Republican and Democratic votes?

At times like these I think back when I was on the floor of the State Senate in Michigan with Republican Bill Milliken — whom I would later compete with for the Governorship — and together we worked to round up votes for the minimum wage. Today’s Republican Party is dangerously close to abandoning any ability to work on a bipartisan basis.

At this moment in our nation’s history it is vital that John Boehner sees himself not as the leader of the Republican Party but the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Our nation faces an especially difficult set of economic and social challenges in the coming years -- some are short-term and others are long-term — and they will impact most facets of our country.  I have every confidence that all of our citizens collectively represent the greatness needed to address them.

Levin is the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.