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Obama Does the 'Compromise' Dance With the GOP and Comes Up Short (Again)

Karen Tumulty shares an important anecdote about negations over health care reform.

Karen Tumulty shares an important anecdote about negations over health care reform.

When Barack Obama informed congressional Republicans last month that he would support a controversial parliamentary move to protect health-care reform from a filibuster in the Senate, they were furious. That meant the bill could pass with a simple majority of 51 votes, eliminating the need for any GOP support for the bill. Where, they demanded, was the bipartisanship the President had promised? So, right there in the Cabinet Room, the President put a proposal on the table, according to two people who were present. Obama said he was willing to curb malpractice awards, a move long sought by the Republicans and certain to bring strong opposition from the trial lawyers who fund the Democratic Party.

What, he wanted to know, did the Republicans have to offer in return?

Nothing, it turned out. Republicans were unprepared to make any concessions, if they had any to make.

So far, we've seen quite a bit of this when the president and the shrinking congressional minority disagree. President Obama sought a stimulus package, for example, and hoped to win over Republicans with a healthy dose of tax cuts. What did Republicans respond with? Nothing, except a counter-proposal with nothing but huge tax cuts.

Steve Benen is "blogger in chief" of the popular Washington Monthly online blog, Political Animal. His background includes publishing The Carpetbagger Report, and writing for a variety of publications, including Talking Points Memo, The American Prospect, the Huffington Post, and The Guardian. He has also appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Air America Radio's "Sam Seder Show," and XM Radio's "POTUS '08."