Byline: Katie Connolly, Michael Hirsh, and Weston Kosova
What Republicans would do if given carte blanche to run the country.
"We've offered to work with the president all year. We've been shut out, shut out, and shut out." --House GOP leader John Boehner
Such is the lament of the party out of power in Washington. Republicans on Capitol Hill say they have many good ideas and want to join with President Obama and the Democrats to alleviate the country's problems. They want to collaborate on a health-care bill, a jobs bill, a clean-energy bill. But they can't, because the Democrats--intent on pushing through a radical agenda that is out of touch with real Americans--won't listen to them. Republicans want to help the president succeed, but he won't let them.
This isn't true, of course--any more than it was true when the Democrats said the same thing as they dedicated themselves to thwarting George W. Bush. In zero-sum Washington, members of the opposition party have little incentive to help the president, especially if it means the credit for their actions could accrue to him and not them. If politics is the art of compromise, then politics as practiced in the capital is the art of preventing compromise at all costs. This is why, infuriatingly, our elected officials spend so much time plotting ways to stick it to the other side with "filibuster-proof super-majorities" and "nuclear options," while the unemployment rate hovers in the double digits and 46 million Americans go without health insurance. It is why not a single GOP senator voted for the health-care bill now stalled in Congress, and why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell turned against a GOP-inspired plan for a deficit commission once Obama endorsed the idea.
A handful of Republicans--Sen. Olympia Snowe on health care, Sen. Bob Corker on financial reform--have tried on their own to break from this tit-for-tat and deal with Democrats. They see what most politicians know but don't talk about: that on many issues, the differences between the two sides are not nearly so great as the party bosses would have us believe. Too often it is politics, not policy, that stymies progress. Certainly Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, scornful of Republican ideas and motives, have not gone out of their way to solicit Republican views. And the GOP leadership has made known its displeasure at moderates' overtures to the other side. Some of Snowe's colleagues treated her like an apostate. Corker has been frustrated in his efforts. "We've probably had the most selfish generation in Congress -- in modern times," says Corker. "It's beyond belief to me that the deficit commission did not pass."
There is a luxury to being the party of "no." As Obama himself has now discovered, it is much easier (and, to some, more viscerally satisfying) to stop something in Washington than to start it. But what if the Republicans had their way? What if Obama and the Democrats simply stepped aside and allowed the GOP to take charge of fixing the nation's troubles? What would they do--and how different would it be, really, from the Democratic proposals Republicans say are so extreme that compromise is all but impossible? A guide to what the GOP wants:
For Republican leaders, there is one way to create new jobs that trumps all others: tax cuts. Leave more money in the hands of business owners, Republicans say, and they will use it to place orders--stimulating job growth--or hire new workers themselves. "We're not going to look to Washington to create the jobs," says GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy, summing up the Republican liturgy. Most in the party (like most Americans, according to polls) want nothing to do with another expensive stimulus that would smack of expanded government. Yet the GOP has also rejected Democratic bills that tried to lure Republicans by including significant tax cuts. Earlier this year Republican Sen. Charles …