Republicans Find Validation in Brown’s Victory

Posted January 20, 2010 at 6:46pm

While Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s (R-Mass.) victory Tuesday has launched a round of soul-searching within the Democratic Party, Republicans said they viewed the special election result as a validation of their strategy of criticizing and resisting President Barack Obama’s sweeping domestic agenda.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Brown’s election “in many ways a national referendum— on the Democrats’ agenda, particularly health care reform, and argued Democrats appear to have gotten the message. “I think the majority has gotten the message here — no more gamesmanship, no more lack of transparency,— McConnell said.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) agreed, arguing that “the American people sent a very clear message through the voters of Massachusetts— that they are unhappy with the approach Democrats have taken.

Republicans said they see no reason to change their strategy. Indeed, while GOP leaders said Democrats were being punished for an overly partisan and uncooperative approach to health care reform and other issues, they pointedly rejected any notion that the same lesson may apply to the GOP.

Republican strategy “only changes from the sense that maybe now people will believe me when I say that we have the opportunity to win the majority,— House Chief Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) quipped.

“It’s up to the majority. They chose to go left, you know. In my view, they misread the electorate in 2008 and decided to pursue a largely dramatically left-of-center agenda,— McConnell said.

“It is after all, the Democrats who are in charge. The Democrats still control the House and Senate. … The burden is really on the administration,— said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of the chamber’s more moderate Members.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) agreed, arguing that Democrats must now turn to a bipartisan approach to legislating — although he said he doubts they will ultimately do so. “I don’t think they’re going to do it. That’s been my experience,— Hatch said.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) argued that since Republicans remain in the minority, all they can do is send a message that they’re willing to work with Democrats.

[IMGCAP(1)]“We’ve made it clear that we’re open, but there has been no attempt, not one attempt, by the administration or the Democrats in Congress to actually sit down and work with us,— Boehner said. “Bipartisanship starts at the beginning of the process, not at the end of the process when they want to throw you a few crumbs and expect you to vote for it.—

Similarly, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) argued that while Republicans must continue to “communicate what the alternatives are,— Democrats need to change their tactics, not Republicans.

“It’s not so much us, as it’s really them, they have to decide,— he said when asked if Brown’s victory would mean a change in the GOP’s agenda. “You know, this is the third election in a row where they said they had a flawed candidate. After New Jersey, after Virginia, after Massachusetts — the bluest of blues — at some point you gotta say maybe you didn’t have a lousy candidate, maybe you had a lousy message and maybe three times in a row does a trend make.—

Democrats, however, bristled at the contention that they have not been bipartisan enough, arguing that even when they have looked for GOP cooperation they have been rebuffed. One senior Senate Democratic aide noted that, during committee consideration of the health care bill, Democrats and Republicans worked closely together to pass dozens of amendments and that Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) ultimately backed the Finance Committee version of the bill. But even before Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “decided to take another approach,— the GOP was accusing Democrats of not working with them, a charge that has left a bitter taste in many Democrats’ mouths. In the end, this aide argued, making further attempts at bipartisanship may simply not be worth it for Democrats.

“At most that got us Snowe and maybe Collins. … At the end of the day, I don’t know that being nicer gets you anything but being smacked around more,— the aide said.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) said that for a bipartisan approach to work, both sides of the aisle must be willing to make concessions and come to the table, and he argued that should be one of the prime takeaways from Brown’s win for both parties. “I think that’s one of the messages,— Lieberman said, adding, “You’ve got to have two to tango. Democratic leaders have to reach out and then Republicans need to respond.—