I was reading Carl Hulse's article "Legislative Hurdles in an Era of Conflict" in the New York Times this morning and had one of those moments like when I first learned that Santa Claus was in fact not real. Yes, perhaps I should have figured it out before I entered 7th grade, but I was a late bloomer. However, now at age 53 you would think I would have figured out that politics is a nasty and stupid business long before today. Here are a few lines that woke me from my bliss-filled ignorance of "how sausage is made:
"... the final vote of 247 to 170 broke almost strictly along party lines, with only five Republicans voting for the measure even though a senior Republican responsible for tax issues acknowledged that there were positive aspects to the bill. ... Representative Sander M. Levin said: ... "You say you agree with these provisions, but then you're going to vote no," ... "You just don't apparently want to be caught being bipartisan. It's going to blur the political message."... The phenomenon has shown itself in the Senate as well in the current impasse over a package of tax breaks and safety-net spending. Extending unemployment benefits in times of economic duress used to be a popular vote, but not one Republican was willing to join Democrats on Thursday to break a filibuster holding up added jobless pay. ... Representative Michael N. Castle of Delaware, ... said the gulf between the parties had grown so wide that most Republicans simply refused to vote for any Democratic legislation. ... "It is just the politics of the time," said Mr. Castle, who is running for the Senate. "We are just into a mode where there is a lot Republican resistance to voting for anything the Democrats are for or the White House is for. I think part of it is where the polling is and how things seem to be going from a political point of view. It is an election year."... If Republicans were to vote for Democratic legislation, it would represent a tacit acknowledgment that some Democratic ideas merit support -- not the message Republicans want to send right now. They are working hard to portray Democrats as inept and themselves as a worthy alternative. ..."
So, is it because the Republicans have positioned themselves as "the party of no" that a bill like S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act has not seen a floor vote after passing out of the H.E.L.P. committee by a unanimous vote several months ago? Could a bill that passed without a no vote now be the victim of "party politics?" Is it possible that despite H.B. 2794 Food Safety Enhancement Act bi-partisan passage in the House almost a year ago, that its Senate version will not receive a vote?
Would Republicans, if given the chance to vote on S. 510 (remember, the Democrats hold a 59 to 41 vote margin and hold the reins of the legislative agenda) actually vote against it? Would they really say no (or, "hell no") to the first major piece of food safety legislation in generations and ignore that they sicken 76,000,000 citizen/voters yearly in food they eat? Really? Would Republican's vote no to solidify their no narrative? I am not so sure.
First, a confession. I am a life-long Democrat. I have never voted for a Republican and I have given and raised millions for Democratic candidates (a large number of the phone calls I receive are candidate solicitations). However, I am not so sure that S. 510's failure to pass can be set at the feet of the Republicans.
I think there are two things at play in the Democratic camp - both equally disturbing to a Democratic fundraiser, a guy who has testified before Congressional Committees and someone who has brought numerous clients poisoned by tainted food to add color to the Committee theatre.
First, the Democratic leadership does not have the Democratic votes to pass this landmark legislation. With farm state Senators being seduced by the Tester's small farm amendment and the liberals by Feinstein's BPA amendment, perhaps Reid and the rest simply do not have the votes to pass the legislation?
Second, so what if Reid has the votes, but not the kind he wants? What if this bill actually has more Republican votes than Democratic ones? What if on this bill the Republicans want to say yes, but doing so would both show that the Democrats are not united and the Republicans are no the party of completely no. Yes, it does seem clear that the Republicans are intent on keeping to their narrative of no. But, perhaps the Democrats do not want to give the Republicans a chance to be bi-partisan? Perhaps the Democratic narrative would be compromised by too many Republican yeses.
So, there is no Santa and politics is nasty and stupid. It really took me 53 years to figure that out?