Friday, February 13, 2009

The New and Emboldened GOP

In its second time through the US House of Representatives, the economic stimulus bill - once again - passed without a single Republican vote.

Just a day before the GOP tried to embarrass President Obama in terms of bipartisanship on the stimulus package, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) - Obama’s pick for Secretary of Commerce - withdrew his nomination on the grounds of policy differences on the stimulus bill and conducting the 2010 Census.

In these new political stunts the Republican Party appears to be an emboldened force again on Capitol Hill. As Charles Mahtesian at Politico writes:

“the New Hampshire senator's surprise decision to remove himself from consideration as President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary Thursday has provided the GOP with a new rallying cry, and a new hero against a foe who just a few weeks ago seemed almost unassailable.

In a way, it’s all a testament to just how far the Republican Party have fallen; what passes for victory now is an embarrassing flip-flop by an admired GOP senator and the passage of a massive economic recovery bill that most Republicans on the Hill oppose bitterly.”

Does an emboldened GOP mean danger for Democrats?

Despite this unity against the new President, the Congressional Republicans are taking some serious risks pertaining to how they will be viewed by the public. Not only will the withdrawal make Gregg and the GOP look undesirable in New Hampshire in 2010, but the opposition to the stimulus plan banks on the hope that the plan fails.

As a recent Gallup poll shows, nearly 60% of Americans currently support the stimulus plan. Even 28% of Republicans support the stimulus, which is only striking because exactly 0% of House Republicans do. More importantly, 56% of independents support the stimulus - enough that Republicans should be concerned about appearing too far to the right.

So the GOP is not showing this stubbornness out of popular opinion - they are specifically going “all-in” at the poker table, waiting for the final card to be flipped. And because the ideas of contracyclical economics are pretty solid, the odds are stacked against them.

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