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Republican Factionalism

TNR’s new editorial – which I did not write but do generally agree with – bemoans the deep factionalism that Republican opposition to health care reform has exposed. National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru objects, "The New Republic's commitment to the idea that minority parties should try to meet majorities halfway is not deep."

In fact, the editorial didn’t say that the GOP has an obligation to meet Democrats halfway. The point was that the Republican Party showed a total inability to bargain in good faith on an issue of massive national concern.

Republicans have overwhelmingly emphasized two objections to Democratic proposals: they would increase the budget deficit, and they would allow a public plan to compete with private insurance. In response to these objections, Max Baucus produced a plan that reduces the budget deficit by significant and growing amounts over time, and includes no public plan whatsoever. You wouldn’t expect every single Republican to come on board. But the fact that zero Republicans endorsed his bill even after their putative objections were completely satisfied is significant and disturbing.

Ponnuru points out that TNR did not urge Democrats to meet George W. Bush halfway on his goal of privatizing Social Security in 2005. That's correct -- they openly opposed the goal. Republicans, though, do not openly oppose the goals of covering the uninsured or containing health care cost growth. They claim to agree with both. They simply won't or cannot negotiate seriously.