The Party of ?No, But Here?s A Better Idea?

Since the election of President Obama, the Democrats have been very effective at portraying the Republican Party as the ?Party of No.? Depending on your political persuasion, this could be completely true, completely false or somewhere in the middle.

In the last couple of weeks, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been hammered by Erick Erickson of RedState and Michelle Malkin for not fighting to the very finish on the recent Senate passage of a health care reform bill. On the one hand, these criticisms are of delaying tactics would only have slowed the vote by twelve hours, which would have done nothing in the halls of Congress but would have, as Ed Morrissey points out, given the media less time to cover the vote?s aftermath. On the other hand, if the Republican leadership had held firm on the many opportunities they had to slow things down, for example by following Senator Judd Gregg?s (R-NH) advice, and Senator Tom Coburn?s (R-OK) wish to read every part of the Senate bill, among other tactics to slow the bill, senators would have had to go home for Christmas a) without a bill, and b) to face their constituents, the majority of whom dislike the Democratic versions of health care reform and whom are increasingly against them as time goes on.

Senators Gregg, Coburn and Jim DeMint (R-SC), among many others, have been vilified for their articulate and unyielding opposition to health care reform and other Democratic measures. However, they are also the poster children for what Republicans should be about- namely, being the party of ?No, But Here?s A Better Idea.? All of these senators, along with other Republicans, have jammed the Democrats but also offered their own solutions to the various issues facing America. They have also worked with Democrats in a bipartisan fashion on a case-by-case basis.

When it comes to dispelling the myth that Republicans have been, and are being, merely obstructionists, let’s start with Senator Judd Gregg. On the one hand, Gregg voted for Secretary Geithner?s nomination, nearly accepted a position as President Obama?s Commerce Secretary, offered support for the bipartisan Wyden-Bennett bill and has worked with Democrat Kent Conrad (D-ND) on a debt commission. On the other, Gregg has hammered Obama on debt, passed around a virtual handbook for Republican obstructionism and taken the lead on opposing Democratic reconciliation. Additionally, however, Gregg has offered his own bill as an alternative to the Democratic proposals.

Senator DeMint is probably most famous for his Waterloo statement and his numerous delaying tactics on health care reform (see here and here for examples). However, he has also worked with self-declared socialist Independent Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on halting the Bernanke nomination and bringing transparency to the Federal Reserve. As a representative of the Party of ?No, but here?s a better idea,? he too has put forth a health care alternative to the Democratic proposals.

Lastly, we have Senator Coburn. Coburn has slid in two gun amendments this year to two Democrat-supported bills, halting the DC voting bill in its tracks. He has also held up funding for veterans because he wanted to use unused stimulus funds for the benefits and loudly opposed the stimulus package. He also forced a reading of Senator Sanders? single-payer amendment to the Democratic bill. However, at the same time, he has maintained a friendship with President Obama, pushed a transparency bill with then-Senator Obama (D-IL) into law in 2006 and sponsored a Republican alternative to the Democratic health care bills on, of all places, Huffington Post. In fact, he wrote on Huffington Post not once but twice. This is a guy who clearly wants his message to get out to all Americans, not just his constituents or fellow conservatives.

Other ?No but here?s a better idea? Republicans include Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), the numerous Republican co-sponsors of the Wyden-Bennett bill and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

The fact is that Republicans are trying to stop a very bad makeover of a massive portion of America in ways that swing from bad policy to unethical to unconstitutional. For an example of the latter, with respect to David Frum?s recent piece supporting the individual mandate?s constitutionality, he is wrong- an individual mandate is clearly unconstitutional. Other bad components include the Senate bill’s abortion funding, the House bill’s public option and the lack of legitimate tort reform in either bill.

Personally, I think Republicans should have fought tooth-and-nail for a post-Christmas vote on the Democratic health care reform bill in the Senate. They should have offered amendments, yes, as Frum has said– but they have a responsibility to stop the bill first and foremost. That is what the minority is supposed to do with a bill as bad as this one, with as little power as Republicans and conservatives have right now- stop the legislation cold and start over with a bill that includes conservative and free market principles and ideas. Some Republicans are just being the Party of No, but sometimes saying?saying?’no’ is necessary, despite what some Democrats may say.

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