The Party of No: New Details on the GOP Plot to Obstruct Obama

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House Majority Leader and House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Eric Cantor answers questions from reporters after speaking at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event entitled Controlling Costs: The Price of Good Health July 12, 2011 in Washington, DC.

TIME just published “The Party of No,” an article adapted from my new book, The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era. It reveals some of my reporting on the Republican plot to obstruct President Obama before he even took office, including secret meetings led by House GOP whip Eric Cantor (in December 2008) and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (in early January 2009) in which they laid out their daring (though cynical and political) no-honeymoon strategy of all-out resistance to a popular President-elect during an economic emergency. “If he was for it,” former Ohio Senator George Voinovich explained, “we had to be against it.” The excerpt includes a special bonus nugget of Mitt Romney dissing the Tea Party.

But as we say in the sales world: There’s more! I’m going to be blogging some of the news and larger themes from the book here at TIME.com, and I’ll kick it off with more scenes from the early days of the Republican strategy of No. Read on to hear what Joe Biden’s sources in the Senate GOP were telling him, some candid pillow talk between a Republican staffer and an Obama aide, and a top Republican admitting his party didn’t want to “play.” I’ll start with a scene I consider a turning point in the Obama era, when the new President went to the Hill to extend his hand and the GOP spurned it.

On Jan. 27, 2009, House Republican leader John Boehner opened his weekly conference meeting with an announcement: Obama would make his first visit to the Capitol around noon, to meet exclusively with Republicans about his economic-recovery plan. “We’re looking forward to the President’s visit,” Boehner said.

The niceties ended there, as Boehner turned to the $815 billion stimulus bill that House Democrats had just unveiled. Boehner complained that it would spend too much, too late, on too many Democratic goodies. He urged his members to trash it on cable, on YouTube, on the House floor: “It’s another run-of-the-mill, undisciplined, cumbersome, wasteful Washington spending bill … I hope everyone here will join me in voting no!

Cantor’s whip staff had been planning a “walk-back” strategy in which they would start leaking that 50 Republicans might vote yes, then that they were down to 30 problem children, then that they might lose 20 or so. The idea was to convey momentum. “You want the members to feel like, Oh, the herd is moving. I’ve got to move with the herd,” explains Rob Collins, Cantor’s chief of staff at the time. That way, even if a dozen Republicans ultimately defected, it would look as if Obama failed to meet expectations.

But when he addressed the conference, Cantor adopted a different strategy. “We’re not going to lose any Republicans,” he declared. His staff was stunned.

“We’re like, Uhhhhh, we have to recalibrate,” Collins recalls.

Afterward, Cantor’s aides asked if he was sure he wanted to go that far out on a limb. Zero was a low number. Centrists and big-spending appropriators from Obama-friendly districts would be sorely tempted to break ranks. If Cantor promised unanimity and failed to deliver, the press would have the story it craved: Republicans divided, dysfunction junction, still clueless after two straight spankings.

But Cantor said yes, he meant zero. He was afraid that if the Democrats managed to pick off two or three Republicans, they’d be able to slap a “bipartisan” label on the bill. “We can get there,” he said. “If we don’t get there, we can try like hell to get there.”

Shortly before 11 a.m., the AP reported that Boehner had urged Republicans to oppose the stimulus. Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs handed Obama a copy of the story in the Oval Office, just before he left for the Hill to make his case for the stimulus, an unprecedented visit to the opposition after just a week in office. “You know, we still thought this was on the level,” Gibbs says. Obama political aide David Axelrod says that after the President left, White House aides were buzzing about the insult. And they didn’t even know that Cantor had vowed to whip a unanimous vote — which, ultimately, he did.

“It was stunning that we’d set this up and, before hearing from the President, they’d say they were going to oppose this,” Axelrod says. “Our feeling was, we were dealing with a potential disaster of epic proportions that demanded cooperation. If anything was a signal of what the next two years would be like, it was that.”

But that wasn’t the only signal. A few other examples:

• Vice President Biden told me that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any bipartisan cooperation on major votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators who said, ‘Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’ ” he recalled. His informants said McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was, ‘For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’ ” Biden said. The Vice President said he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along those lines.

“So I promise you — and the President agreed with me — I never thought we were going to get Republican support,” Biden said.

• One Obama aide said he received a similar warning from a Republican Senate staffer he was seeing at the time. He remembered asking her one morning in bed, How do we get a stimulus deal? She replied, Baby, there’s no deal!

“This is how we get whole,” she said with a laugh. “We’re going to do to you what you did to us in 2006.”

• David Obey, then chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, met with his GOP counterpart, Jerry Lewis, to explain what Democrats had in mind for the stimulus and ask what Republicans wanted to include. “Jerry’s response was, ‘I’m sorry, but leadership tells us we can’t play,’ ” Obey told me. “Exact quote: ‘We can’t play.’ What they said right from the get-go was, It doesn’t matter what the hell you do, we ain’t going to help you. We’re going to stand on the sidelines and bitch.”

Lewis blames Obey and the Democrats for the committee’s turn toward extreme partisanship, but he doesn’t deny that GOP leaders made a decision not to play. “The leadership decided there was no play to be had,” he says. Republicans recognized that after Obama’s big promises about bipartisanship, they could break those promises by refusing to cooperate. In the words of Congressman Tom Cole, a deputy Republican whip: “We wanted the talking point: ‘The only thing bipartisan was the opposition.’ ”

Read more in this week’s issue of TIME or pick up a copy of The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era.

188 comments
Sstuhr
Sstuhr

This story does not mention one thing about reality, what has actually happened since Obama has taken office.  It talks about would of could of should of,.  The truth is that the the Rhino Republicans in Congress every since they have controlled congress, have given Obama everything that he has wanted,  before that he got everything he wanted because  the Democrats controlled Congress.  I wish the author of this article would show one example where the Republicans haven't funded every program that Obama has wanted.  Just name one. It was Obama who said, when the Republicans first met with him to discuss bipartisan issues,I won the election and basically he closed his mind to any type of compromise.  It's the Republicans who compromised on every budget. 

TomWilliams2
TomWilliams2

Thank god they did. It's hard to imagine how much more destruction Obama could have caused. 

BerniePike
BerniePike

@JoseyWales1 @TomWilliams2  hes gotta be. or his reading comprehension is at the elementary level most republican voters are accustomed to.  the article states, no matter how good for the country the republicans say  no.    Borderline treason if you ask me.  


can we sue for the salary back of these guys so it can go towards making things better?


Floridapoolbum
Floridapoolbum

Destruction? Every indicator shows that this country is in far better shape than it was in 2008. Perhaps you miss the $5 a gallon gas that helped to make the Bush family wealthier? Or the larger debt? Or the higher unemployment?

FrancisLaFeriere
FrancisLaFeriere

As far as I am concerned. the Republicans have committed treason and sedition against the People of the United States and the President of the United States by their actions....and should be prosecuted for such.

VinceEdmonds
VinceEdmonds

Baaaaahahaha haha hahaha hahaha haha ... oh wait ... YOU'RE SERIOUS! ? BAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHA HAHAHA .....you libtarded left-wing anti-American anti-god racist terrorists crack me up. You DARE attempt sedition by trying to overthrow the constitution with your socialist / communist / Marxist anti-American agenda and then DARE to try and blame American patriots for foiling your plots? Choke and die communist pigs

TomWilliams2
TomWilliams2

@FrancisLaFeriere DITTO.........BAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHA HAHAHA HAHAHA HAHA HAHAHA .....you libtarded left-wing anti-American anti-god racist terrorists

DaleO'Brien
DaleO'Brien

@ Vince Emonds: Your use of the word, " libtard" shows your immaturity and demonstrates

to any sane person that you have absolutely nothing constructive to add to this discussion.

L'heurebleue
L'heurebleue

@VinceEdmonds  Choke and die yourself. You're no patriot, you're just another idiot. America doesn't need your kind.

Floridapoolbum
Floridapoolbum

@VinceEdmunds Get a dictionary, moron. These people that you call patriots, the Republican's, are only in it for the money. They keep funneling more and more tax dollars to large corporations and billionaires (many of our members of Congress are billionaires). The country is a hell of a lot better of now than in 2008. Everyone knows it, even the Republican's. The Kock's and other billionaires are in a panic because they know that the American public know the truth and are getting sick of the Republican 1%er's.

Floridapoolbum
Floridapoolbum

@TomWilliams2, @FrancisLaFeriere, @VinceEdmunds. Morons. First of all, God is non partisan. If you get your heads out of the sand you'll hear racist remarks coming from the Republican's. If any party has terroristic tendencies, it's the Republican's. They are destroying our air, water, and the rest of our natural resources to help rich corporations get richer. That's the only thing that this Republican party cares about is enriching themselves at the expense of everything and everyone else. I know, I use to be a Republican. Quotes from past Republican's like Presidents Eisenhower and Teddy Roosevelt; Senators Barry Goldwater and Bob Dale and even Congressman John Boehner have spoken against the current ideology of this Republican party.

Floridapoolbum
Floridapoolbum

Quotes from Presidents Eisenhower and Teddy Roosevelt have commented about policies of their day, which different greatly from current Republican rhetoric. Senator Barry Goldwater spoke of his concerns about the religious right. Both he and Senator Bob Dole have spoken about the need for both parties to write their own bills and work with the Democrats to COMPROMISE to pass a bill agreeable to all. Senator Goldwater knew that those in the religious right are unwilling to compromise.

gfink2
gfink2

This was the logical conclusion to the GOP strategy we've seen in place at least since the Clinton era. Remember why they impeached a president? Hint: it had nothing to do with the job of president or the 'rule of law' - as we can now clearly see. The only way it will change is if voters wise up and elect better representatives.

VinceEdmonds
VinceEdmonds

We're about to. First we will expel your "little boy who would be king" obammy out on his ear by the scruff of the neck and the seat of his pants with a boot in the ass for momentum ... then we install a conservative constitutional patriot named Ted Cruz to sweep aside the treason and seditious acts of you socialist / communist / Marxist anti-American anti-god left-wing racist terrorists.

DaleO'Brien
DaleO'Brien

There is no way the Conservatives will win the election with the clowns they are parading out - not the least of which is Ted Cruz.

LukeFawcett
LukeFawcett

And it continues now as the GOP just announced it would not support any plans Obama might have for War Authorization in the Middle East so as to "not tie the hands of the next President."  Apparently they expect a GOP Win?  Is it a good idea to announce strategy like this?  Doesn't it give a big advantage to our enemies?  Next they plan on all kinds of measures to shore up the price of Oil for domestic companies.  The low oil prices affect ALL AMERICANS but the states most affected are RED.  What would the GOP do if the situation were reversed?  I think we know the Blue States would be in trouble.  Aren't we all glad that we have a guy in the WH who puts the interests of the Nation ahead of Politics?

JoshWeinstein
JoshWeinstein

How horrible! I never would have thought I would see in my lifetime American Politicians who refused to take the best interests of the country into consideration! We were going through a crisis and they had a duty to THE PEOPLE of this country. I get that Republicans would prefer a Republican were in the White House, but just because your side lost does not mean that you get to purposely try to destroy the country. Blind hatred for the black President apparently comes before the best interests of the people. There are several examples of Democrats at least TRYING to reach out to Republicans to see what they could agree on and every time they were told "NOTHING!". Obamacare was a plan put out by the Heritage Foundation and as soon as Obama endorsed it, they said it would be the worst thing to ever happen to the American People. That has proved untrue. Their blind hatred is going to cost them, people are totally fed up with it. Hey, sometimes Democrats win, sometimes Republicans win. The losing party has to face reality and try to make the best deal for itself that it can, but that does not include obstructing 100% of everything. Especially during the near-collapse of the world economy. During emergencies, both sides need to work together to come up with the best solution to the problem. The economy might be doing better right now if they could have compromised, or at least allowed things to come up for a vote. That affects REAL PEOPLE, A LOT OF PEOPLE. It is not about one person, not even the President. Had the situation been reversed and Democrats tried to obstruct everything a Republican President wanted, I would be against that as well. I didn't like Bush, but I was not praying for him to fail.

WendyWilkinsValdez
WendyWilkinsValdez

What's really insane is that despite all this evidence, all the facts and quotes PROVING that the GOP did everything they could to oppose ANYTHING Obama wanted, they continue to tell their brain-dead constituents that it was the PRESIDENT who refused to work with them - and those idiots believe it!!! So much hate and animosity for a man whose only sin was that his father was a black Muslim.

ChipLis
ChipLis

Since John Bohner had to quit giving ol' Barry blow jobs, he gets them now from Paul Ryan

MaryRutten
MaryRutten

total obstructionist, it does not surprise me, it was too obvious what they have been doing and all should be held in contempt and be held accountable, right like that would every happen!

ThereseTaranta
ThereseTaranta

This behavior is typical of the small minds of bigots. The same behavior holds true to undermining women.

They close ranks and do whatever is possible to obstruct and demean.

I wish President Obama's advisors had made him realize sooner that he was dealing with people who are completely devoid of character or decency.

Qopel
Qopel

Why aren't people going to jail for this?

VinceEdmonds
VinceEdmonds

Because its considered "patriotic" to put an end to the socialist / communist / Marxist anti-American anti-god left-wing racist terrorism of ohammy and you libtarded morons

RaymondBeale
RaymondBeale

@VinceEdmonds  If you even knew what the word "patriotic" meant, they might have let you get past the 2nd grade.

L'heurebleue
L'heurebleue

@DebBeck @VinceEdmonds  The use of the non-word "libtard" is a clue to his single digit IQ. You can't reason with a man whose reasoning capability is on a level below a toddler's.

DebBeck
DebBeck

@VinceEdmonds Shows just how deeply intelligent one is when all they can do is repeat the same thing over and over and over.....

CeCeManlawCarter
CeCeManlawCarter

Vince, you should try getting your head out of your ass long enough to have an original thought for yourself. I understand that would require you to stop the two brain cells you have from kicking each others asses. This story has been proven with internal documents which retardicans passed around not to mention party members who left those idiots because they went of their meds with this type of BS. You talk about patriotism. Your remedial ass obviously does know the definition so let's not use words out of your limited vocabulary scope. The word your dumbass means is Treasonous. Now get off your sister, walk your ass across your trailer, pick up a dictionary and learn the difference. Republicans are so great, right? Please explain how it is that the top 10 poorest , uneducated, highest unemployment rate and most use of welfare, just happened to be red states. You idiots keep voting against your best interest. How's that working out for you and the rest of your inbred people? Get a grip or stop calling yourself am American, you sound stupid.

Floridapoolbum
Floridapoolbum

It's funny that most historians agree that George W. Bush (2001-2008) was the WORST PRESIDENT EVER!

RichardBoswell
RichardBoswell

ummm 2008 - 2010 The Democrat party had a super majority in both the house and senate, the republicans could not block anything ... So ... Stupid, Democrat, Lemming, Liberal Media, attempt to rewrite history ... Again ..FAIL...

TIME pretending to be a "News Outlet" should try harder.  OTOH since their "readers" clearly don't care about facts, let alone the truth, or the real story, or even the real history ... "What difference at this point does it make?"

GaryHettinger
GaryHettinger

@RichardBoswell  you also forget much of the time the GOP filibustered in record numbers, Ted Kennedy had cancer and couldn't always vote and Al Franken had to wait months for the MN recount,

Freond
Freond

@BonnieWarner @JimRousch @RichardBoswell A majority in the Senate is 61??? Since when are there 120 Senators? A majority is 51. To stop a filibuster takes 3/5 or 60 if all 100 show up. 60 is sometimes called a supermajority.  If a party controls 60 votes, they can force through anything they want through the Senate (though it might ultimately be vetoed). Some actions require a 2/3 supermajority.  Majority or either of the supermajorities are based not on absolute numbers, but on >50%, 2/3 or 3/5 of the number who show up, which is often < 100.  This explains the lie that many try to perpetuate: http://www.ohio.com/blogs/mass-destruction/blog-of-mass-destruction-1.298992/when-obama-had-total-control-of-congress-1.332977

VinceEdmonds
VinceEdmonds

Hey obammyzombie ... might wanna turn on your tv from time to time ....obammy has attempted to destroy this nation and the stock market is plummeting. Your "little boy who would be king" obammy is a complete failure in that we the people still stand and we are going to sweep aside all the damage hes done

JimRousch
JimRousch

@RichardBoswell
A super majority is SIXTY VOTES in the Senate, sir, and the Democratic Party never had SIXTY votes when they controlled the Senate.

Go back to high school, okay?

EmmVee
EmmVee

Bonniewarner he is a right. The filibuster proof is 60 not 61.

MikeLarkin
MikeLarkin

@RichardBoswell I keep this handy.
"

In January 2009, there were 56 Senate Democrats and two independents who caucused with Democrats. This combined total of 58 included Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), whose health was failing and was unable to serve. As a practical matter, in the early months of Obama’s presidency, the Senate Democratic caucus had 57 members on the floor for day-to-day legislating.

In April 2009, Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter switched parties. This meant there were 57 Democrats, and two independents who caucused with Democrats, for a caucus of 59. But with Kennedy ailing, there were still “only” 58 Democratic caucus members in the chamber.

In May 2009, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) was hospitalized, bringing the number of Senate Dems in the chamber down to 57.

In July 2009, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was finally seated after a lengthy recount/legal fight. At that point, the Democratic caucus reached 60, but two of its members, Kennedy and Byrd, were still unavailable for votes.

In August 2009, Kennedy died, and Democratic caucus again stood at 59.

In September 2009, Sen. Paul Kirk (D-Mass.) filled Kennedy’s vacancy, bringing the caucus back to 60, though Byrd’s health continued to deteriorate and he was unable to serve most of the time.

In January 2010, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) replaced Kirk, bringing the Democratic caucus back to 59 again.

In June 2010, Byrd died, and the Democratic caucus fell to 58, where it stood until the midterms."


bonafide
bonafide

@RichardBoswell Yah because you were there. You know what they call people who won't change their mind even in light of facts? Confirmation bias and belief perseverance are problems for people who choose ignorance over understanding. Ignorance is a choice! Low level comprehension not so much. I'm not going to judge.

sprizz324
sprizz324

There was a "majority", for exactly 72 days in the entire first two years.

MaryRutten
MaryRutten

@MikeLarkin @RichardBoswell thanks for the facts and nothing but the facts.  Face it Richard they are nothing but obstructionist and should be held accountable.  It is a wonder this country s where it is despite all they did to see Obama fail.

BobSteiner
BobSteiner

@VinceEdmonds The stock market has more than doubled since Obama took office. It hit a low of 6443 in March of 2009. Even with the recent downturn, it still hovers around 16,000. 

DaleO'Brien
DaleO'Brien

Vince: So your idea of turning on the TV is to watch FOX News. Now that's must be what makes you so knowledgeable.