Why it's so hard for Congress to agree to do anything to help economic recovery, here's why.
Public policy is not a zero-sum competition between “Republican ideas” and “Democratic ideas,” but electoral competition is a zero-sum battle for office. In a paradigm where the passage of major legislation counts as a “win” for President Obama then anyone who wants to see President Obama go down to defeat, then no major legislation can pass on a bipartisan basis. This is exactly the problem the White House had in trying to overcome GOP filibusters during the 111th Congress and the main problem they face in trying to reach bipartisan accords with the Republican-led House of Representatives in the 112th Congress. This is the fundamental reality of American politics today, but far too few people put it at the center of their accounts of what’s happening.
Today, Obama presented Congress with his jobs legislation. In his remarks, Obama noted, “There are some in Washington who’d rather settle our differences through politics and the elections than try to resolve them now. In fact, Joe [Biden] and I, as we were walking out here, we were looking at one of the Washington newspapers and it was quoting a Republican aide saying, ‘I don’t know why we’d want to cooperate with Obama right now. It’s not good for our politics.’ That was very explicit.”
Congressional Republicans are just too petty to "hand him a win", even if it means helping their unemployed constituents get jobs and survive. GOP leadership want to appear "conciliatory" by just passing pieces they like instead of nuking the entire package, but even that may be too much for teabagger rank-and-file, as they're dead set against anything and everything Obama proposes. And of course, the 2012 "clown car candidates" are likely to go along with whatever the teabaggers wants.
They just can't stand that President Obama sent them a bill that they can't have an easy time saying no to, especially since he's making the case directly to the American people. Good. I hope Obama keeps the heat on them, since I doubt they can actually handle it.