Grand Orbital Party?

by Paul on January 30, 2010

As the President gradually cranks up his rhetorical effort to recapture the “bipartisan” high ground, and Republicans obstruction is openly discussed, I’m hearing more and more of a particular counter-attack from Republicans, one that makes me wonder.

Was a large part of the Republican party somewhere off-planet during most of 2009?

This morning on NPR’s Weekend Edition, Republican Senator Judd Gregg tried to convince us that, rather than the GOP being the partisan ones who were the problem, it was really the Democrats’ fault:

This healthcare bill was not bipartisan. We weren’t even allowed in the room while they were negotiating it! And then they brought it to the floor and forced a vote in 72 hours on Christmas Eve? To do it in that manner is totally irresponsible and was extraordinarily partisan.

Gregg was repeating a sort of claim that was also heard yesterday during Obama’s appearance at the GOP policy retreat.

There are a number of Republicans who seem to believe that the health care bill happened very suddenly, without any opportunity for them to have input, and, despite their large number of really awesome ideas, they’ve been totally ignored by those power-mad Democrats.

How could they think that? Here on planet Earth, health care reform legislation has gone through many hearings of multiple Congressional committees on which sit many influential Republicans. In fact, one of those is the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee, on which someone claiming to be Judd Gregg himself sits. That committee passed a bill on July 15th, which seems quite a bit before Christmas Eve.

Gregg (or his simulacrum since he seems to have no memory of the event) voted against it, as did all the Republicans on the committee.

That may have something to do with why Gregg wasn’t invited to the December negotiations, trying to combine bills passed by various committees. Typically, when legislators are negotiating final changes to bills, the discussions don’t include those who voted against the entire idea in the first place. Historically, legislators have even voted for bills they didn’t like, so that they could later have a place at the table to discuss changes.

That Gregg should expect to be invited to discuss something he’d already soundly rejected seems insane. As would complaining that he’s had no chance to participate when he’d been in long hearing sessions and voted on a bill. Unless… perhaps it wasn’t actually Judd Gregg who participated in the process back in July? What if, and I know this sounds crazy but…, what if Gregg and the other Republicans making this argument were actually abducted by space aliens early in 2009, and replaced by some kind of duplicate operating under alien control?

That might explain why Gregg and the others seem to have no memory of the interminable weeks during the summer when, despite an August deadline, there was no progress whatsoever as we all waited for Senator Max Baucus and his bipartisan ‘Gang of Six’ to deliver on their promise of a compromise bill.

How else is it possible that they don’t recall week after week of Baucus’ genuflections and contortions, desperately trying to woo his three Republican colleagues, dragging out into September, when finally realizing they would never say yes, he moved on without them? It’s not like they could merely have been out of the country, because the US process, and the extremely moderate bill Baucus finally produced, got plenty of foreign coverage.

Here on planet Earth, the major subject of political debate in the United States during the entire length of 2009 was health care and what to do about it. (This, of course, in the context of decades of previous discussion about what to do about a system seen as increasingly troubled and expensive.) Months were spent as moderate Democrats engaged in a futile effort to get Republican votes, incorporating their ideas and preferences only to see them vote against it in the end. In fact, the entire effort started with conciliation to the Republicans: a single-payer plan was never on the table.

Yet to hear the Republicans tell it, none of that ever happened. As they remember it, all of their many wonderful ideas have been completely ignored, and, as Gregg so angrily contends, they weren’t even allowed in the room and the Democrats forced the bill through all of a sudden on Christmas Eve.

Now, part of this might be do to a widespread confusion about the meaning of the word “ignored”. There do seem to be people who think “ignore” means something like “to not accept”, so that if an idea is listened to, evaluated, but rejected, they think it has been “ignored.” In English we would say “considered” and “rejected”, because otherwise it would imply that any idea, no matter how crazy, could only be either ignored or accepted. But not even this can completely explain the things these Republicans are saying, and the anger with which they are saying it.

So, as unlikely as it seems, I have to think the alien abduction hypothesis is the most plausible explanation. The people making such claims can’t possibly have been here, participating in the process all year, and make such claims now. What other alternative is there, really?

That these Republicans are completely full of crap?

How likely is that?

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