From the way the media have covered this week’s stimulus package vote, you would think the goal of the legislation was to get Democrats and Republicans to sit together for lunch in the House cafeteria, rather than to turn around an economy in free fall.
After the House passed the stimulus package by a comfortable margin, much of the media reacted not by examining the bill’s contents and the likelihood that it would provide a much-needed boost to the economy, but by focusing on the fact that it passed without a single Republican vote.
Why the GOP’s unanimity in opposing the stimulus package should be surprising is anybody’s guess; the last time we had a newly elected Democratic president, in 1993, congressional Republicans were unanimous in opposing his economic package, too. Then-Rep. John Kasich went so far as to promise that if Bill Clinton’s plan worked, Kasich would switch parties. (It did; he didn’t.) Point being: Congressional Republicans do not have a strong track record of working with Democratic presidents in recent memory. Perhaps because they were too busy trying to subpoena the White House cat.
Nonetheless, the Democrats’ purported failure to get Republican support for the bill was, according to many reporters, the story.
Yesterday’s edition of ABC’s The Note, among the most reliable of indicators of conventional wisdom among Beltway journalists, began:
As President Obama said, there are a lot of numbers in the stimulus bill. But the number that may be remembered most of all from Wednesday’s vote in the House is zero.
That’s a goose egg in the first inning of bipartisanship — at least as recorded on Obama’s scorecard.
Got that? The most important thing is not what the bill will — or won’t — do to fix the economy; it is that Obama failed to win the votes of Republican members of Congress.