Dec 5, 2013
The Politics of Politics as Usual
Posted on Dec 24, 2009
By Ruth Marcus
Cash for Cloture! Cornhusker Kickback! Louisiana Purchase!
We are, or so we are told by conservative commentators and politicians, supposed to be indignant, outraged, horrified at the fact that lawmakers with bargaining power extracted special deals for their states in the negotiations over health care reform.
“Prostitution has been legalized in Washington, D.C.,” railed Rush Limbaugh. “Backroom deals that amount to bribes,” lamented Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Give me a break.
You may not like it. It’s certainly not pretty. But this kind of political horse-trading has been around since the dawn of politics, if not the dawn of horses. So the protestations of fury from opponents of the measure are awfully hard to take.
If anything, the Democratic deal-making looks tame by comparison to the Republican arm-twisting in advance of—and during—the House vote on the prescription drug program for Medicare in 2003. In the most egregious example, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, offered to endorse the son of retiring Michigan Republican Nick Smith if he agreed to vote “yes” on the bill. Somehow I don’t recall the Limbaughs of the world getting the vapors over DeLay’s behavior.
In any event, there’s a huge difference between an offer that goes purely to a politician’s personal benefit and an offer of help to a lawmaker’s state (and therefore to his or her own political benefit). The first verges on the criminal. The second is part of the job description.
Granted, this is not President Barack Obama’s promised change from politics as usual. Then again, that’s just what it is: politics as usual.
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