The fact that President Obama’s agenda routinely gets fewer Republican votes than you can count on one hand has become something of a running joke in Washington, and goes a long way toward explaining the acrimony between the two parties today. The administration may have been unaware that “bipartisanship” wouldn’t work in practice, but they learned that lesson quickly.
But there’s a more complicated, intraparty relationship–the one between party leaders and conservative Democrats–that’s at least as crucial, and that’s giving the administration a harder time. As we’ve documented, here, the White House and party leaders on the Hill have gone out of their way to squelch grassroots efforts to target Blue Dog Democrats in the House and conservative Democrats in the Senate, and, for the most part, those groups have complied. But how does the administration really feel about them?The New Yorker‘sRyan Lizza outsources the answer to a senior administration official who, toward the end of a long article about OMB Director Peter Orszag, says, “We’re fighting all the bad guys.” Take the budget fight, currently underway in conference committee:
The fifty-one Conservative House Democrats known as the Blue Dogs forced a reduction in the over-all amount of spending. “Their chief negotiator was Allen Boyd,” [House Budget Committee Chair John] Spratt told me, referring to the congressman from north Florida, “and we cut a deal–well, that’s a little”–he amended his phrasing, and smiled–“came to an understanding” that “there would be a seven-billion-dollar reduction in the increase in N.D.D., non-defense discretionary spending.”
So far, conservative Democrats have teamed up to weaken Obama’s stimulus plan and budget, and may ultimately make it difficult for Obama to get his nominees confirmed. The question is, how much more will the administration accept before they lift the hands-off policy on the “bad guys”?