Things are getting so bad for the Republicans that they’re considering a last resort: bipartisanship.
That’s right—the party that controls the White House, Senate and House might need some Democratic votes.
The immediate focus is the stalled Senate health care bill, which has a public approval rating of only 12 percent to 27 percent, depending on the poll. Nine GOP senators have expressed varying degrees of opposition to the bill. Conservatives don’t like parts of it, moderates don’t like parts of it, and even with President Trump cajoling lawmakers by phone and in person, the party can’t seem to get to 50.
The New York Times says Mitch McConnell gave his senators a warning: “Either Republicans come together, or he would have to work with Democrats to shore up the deteriorating health law.”
Democrats are willing to negotiate, but their price is preserving most of ObamaCare with some changes. After seven years of Republican promises to repeal and replace the law, that sounds like a non-starter…unless Trump and McConnell have no choice.
The larger problem is that the party that now runs Washington hasn’t been able to push through a major piece of legislation. There’s been no progress on tax reform, which is tied in some ways to the tax reductions in the GOP health bill. There’s been no progress on an infrastructure program. There’s been no progress on constructing a border wall. And the GOP has to find the votes to approve a debt ceiling increase or face a government default.
Listen to the voices of Republican frustration, as reported by Politico:
Rep. Steve Womack: “We’d better get our act together. We’re better than this. … We’re not governing right now. We’re stuck.”
Rep. Tom Reed: “The fact that we’re not getting to these issues — health care, budget, tax reform — is frustrating. We came here to move the needle.”
The problem for Republicans is that they own these issues now. They are still trying to figure out how to be a governing party. The divisions within the party, and the gap between Trump and Republican lawmakers, has made each step agonizingly slow.
Gridlock in Washington can usually be blamed on the out-of-power party. And the Democrats have done their part to slow-walk just about everything, just as the GOP did during the Obama years.
But we are now faced with a Republican form of gridlock. And their success in 2018—not to mention the president’s success—will rest on breaking it.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.