Is Obama’s Quest for Bi-partisan Support Really Worth It?

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John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, and the Man. Photo: Getty Images

This afternoon President Obama will boldly venture into hostile territory — the chambers of the House and Senate Republicans, where opposition to his stimulus package is widespread. Obama doesn't need to be there, since Democrats have a comfortable advantage in both houses of Congress, and can pretty much put whatever they want in this bill, pass it, and call it a day. But Obama has already demonstrated that all his bi-partisan talk wasn't just campaign shtick. The hundreds of millions in tax breaks in the initial bill were a nod to Republicans, and the White House is signaling today that the provision on family-planning funding, which has been the focus of significant mocking, will be dropped. Obama will hope to find more common ground today, but is it worth the trouble?

• John Dickerson says Obama is going to get his stimulus package either way, but his quest for Republican support will show "just how Obama does the hard things he doesn't absolutely have to do — how he maneuvers around the immovable problems of partisanship, posturing, and the omnipresent presidential temptation to clobber your opponents when you can." [Slate]

• Bob Herbert puts his foot down: "When the G.O.P. talks, nobody should listen ... We listened to the G.O.P. and what do we have now? A trillion-dollar-plus deficit and an economy in shambles." [NYT]

• Janet Hook and Peter Nicholas believe that whether or not Obama gets Republican votes in Congress, the more important measure of success is that he's "winning over more Republican voters than he did on election day." Nevertheless, if he doesn't get Republican support now, it's "a bad omen for his efforts to build bipartisan coalitions on even more divisive issues." [LAT]

• Chuck Todd and friends write that the White House has already agreed to fix the Alternative Minimum Tax, and that might be enough compromise. "By agreeing to include a few Republican ideas, the White House may have the talking points they want." [First Read/MSNBC]

• Howard Fineman thinks that if ultimately Republican support doesn't materialize, "it may not matter that much. In 1993, Bill Clinton passed his first and most important — and successful — tax bill without a single GOP vote in the House." Unlike Obama, though, "Clinton wasn’t proposing to change the way Washington worked. He just wanted to win, and he did." [MSNBC]

• Steve Kornacki doesn't get what the big hubbub about Republican opposition is all about. "This is what opposition leaders in Congress do," and even with Obama's outreach, "it will be a shock if more than a scattering of Republicans don't follow their leader, Mr. Boehner, and use the vote to cater to their base." [NYO]

• Irwin M. Stelzer cautions conservatives that "nitpicking around the edges of this recovery program won't be enough either to derail or to lay the basis for a 'we told you so' campaign in 2010 or 2012. That will take a coherent counter-proposal." [Weekly Standard]

• Steve Benen "appreciate[s] the political dynamic" in dropping the family-planning funds from the bill. "It's become a distraction, so it's understandable that Democratic leaders prefer to just make the irritation go away." But it's "frustrating" regardless. [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Marc Ambinder says Obama's personal intervention on removing the family-planning money "shows Republicans that he takes (some of) their concerns seriously, even to the point of irritating his own base." But is his base "willing to give him a pass"? [Atlantic]

• Matthew Yglesias isn't "outraged by the idea of dropping a family planning provision from the stimulus bill in response to conservative objections." But when will Obama and the Democrats get the "pro quo" part of the quid pro quo, as in, Republican votes? "Bargaining is smart," but Obama hasn't seen any results yet "for his business tax cuts nor ... for selling out low-income women’s access to contraceptives." [Think Progress]