Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)–who has been working with Democrats to draft a bipartisan climate and energy bill–says the prospects for passing any more major legislation may be lost now that the Dems have all but finished up health care. One problem, he says, is that Democrats may not have the appetite after health care to commit to addressing other tough issues. But beyond that, he says, members of the GOP might just pick up their toys and go home.
“This makes it harder because quite frankly people are gonna be risk averse,” Graham said in response to a question from TPMDC, moments after the Senate’s final health care vote. “Democrats have taking a beating passing this bill, and I think when they go home for Easter they’re gonna get some pretty strong blowback, and when you approach another tough issue like energy and climate, there’s going to be risk aversion on their side and our people are pretty upset.”
I asked him to elaborate on the Republican side of that equation. “The consequences of doing something this big in such a partisan, sleazy way–those consequences are real,” Graham said.Graham’s pessimism suggests that–despite being a series of defeats in the past several days–Republicans haven’t revisited their strategy of broad opposition to the Democratic agenda.
“The process that led to the passage of health care and the substance of health care, the consequences are not known in terms of the future of this body, between now and 2010 and thereafter,” Graham went on.
And that, he says, carries over to other major issues as well. “I know that what they’ve done on health care in such a partisan fashion has made it very difficult to go to a tough issue because of the public outrage quite frankly. Immigration is not going to happen in the Senate. There is no desire to do immigration in the United States Senate in 2010.”
“I don’t want to be in the Congress where everything stops,” Graham added. “I don’t think it’s smart for the Congress to just never do anything between now and November 2010. But the realistic effect of the way they’ve done health care is to make it hard to do anything at all controversial.”
Climate change and immigration were always going to be difficult issues to address in the Senate. But Graham’s statements stand in stark contrast to the prediction of Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, who said health care has convinced Republicans that it’s time to play along.
“It was heartening to hear Harry Reid talk about immigration, which I thought would have had no chance at all. But apparently there’s some renewed life,” Dodd told reporters this morning outside of a press conference on health care reform. “I think, frankly, there are a number of Republicans who went along with the strategy of ‘just say no’ who were never really happy with it, but if it worked they would go along. They saw it fail. And now they’ve had enough of it. and they really want to be involved in crafting things.”
Dodd’s signature issue, financial regulatory reform, is sui generis–grassroots conservatives and liberals view it as a must-pass–and it may fare better in the Senate, where filibusters and 60-vote requirements have become the norm, than other pending matters.
But Graham–like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) before him–seems to be telling Dodd and all Democrats not to count on any co-operation from this point forward…which basically puts us back where we were at the beginning of the 111th Congress.