The last time a high-profile Democrat worked toward a bipartisan compromise on an important issue, instead of joining his party in using that issue as an opportunistic campaign ploy, he was run out of the party and had to register as an independent. It was Joe Lieberman’s principled support for the troops in the face of a party-wide Democratic flip-flop on the issue that earned him the title of “the last honest man.”
Now Democrats are witnessing a rerun of the episode on Medicare. Democratic leaders are furious at Oregon Senator Ron Wyden for working with Paul Ryan on a bipartisan Medicare fix–angry enough to go on-the-record with Politico about it. Their argument is they had planned to run more ads where they dress up as Paul Ryan and push a wheelchair-bound retiree off a cliff. Thanks to Wyden, however, their violent costumed fantasies may have to be taken off the table–or at least off-camera:
Wyden and Ryan are floating an idea to allow seniors to choose between traditional Medicare and private insurance programs. Ryan is considering adding provisions in his 2013 budget that would pave the way for this approach….
Asked if there was frustration among Senate Democrats with Wyden over Medicare, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Politico: “I’ve heard that sentiment expressed.”…
Privately, the criticism is more biting.
“Democrats believe in Medicare and, rather than bolster it, Wyden undermined a great issue for us all so he could grab a couple of headlines,” one furious Democratic source said. “Just embarrassing.”
Yes, just imagine the Democrats’ humiliation when a single member of their party decided to try and fix a problem rather than demagogue it in an attempt to oust bipartisan, solution-oriented Republicans in future elections. What this tells you–aside from the crass opportunism of people like Durbin–is probably something you already knew: the “do-nothing” Congress is a misnomer. Republicans have been passing budgets, while the Democratic Senate, led by Harry Reid, have now passed the 1,000-day mark since their last budget. Entitlement reform is going to be a significant part of getting this country’s fiscal house in order, so Republicans like Paul Ryan have been floating solutions, while the Democrats sit back throwing life-size dolls off of cliffs.
The Democrats’ congressional leadership isn’t alone, however. The Obama administration also “lashed out” at Wyden for his bipartisan proposal. So will Wyden win his battle against the do-nothing Democrats and the obstructionist White House? The answer will tell us a lot about Wyden’s own party and the possibility of real reform in Harry Reid’s Senate.