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Wyden’s pushback

This is a case where a statement about issue stances really needs just a bit of context.

Back in February, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden was at a town hall meeting at Newberg, and was asked a critical question by a local Democratic leader. We described it:

The county Democratic chair said she’d been asked by a number of local Democrats about Wyden’s cooperative venture on health care policy with Republican Representative Paul Ryan; it sounded to many of them, she suggested, as if Wyden was giving up ground on the health care fight. Wyden’s response was that he wasn’t, that the effort with Ryan was very preliminary, far from the point of drafting a bill, at more an exploratory point, to find out what ideas they might have in common. He cited a few but suggested that the conversation is only in early stages.

The news reports suggesting the two had cooked up a major new piece of legislation were heavily overblown, he said. And he has stuck with that description since.

When Paul Ryan joined the Republican ticket as vice presidential nominee, his backers were eager to position him as someone willing to work with Democrats – and so the notion of a Ryan-Wyden health bill resurfaced. it resurfaced last weekend, and seems to refuse to die.

Wyden got pretty explicit again about the situation in his recent statement on presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s description of the situation: “Gov. Romney is talking nonsense. Bipartisanship requires that you not make up the facts. I did not ‘co-lead a piece of legislation.’ I wrote a policy paper on options for Medicare. Several months after the paper came out, I spoke and voted against the Medicare provisions in the Ryan budget.”

The added bit of context here is that, for someone ordinarily as determined to work cooperatively and be (genuinely) bipartisan, this amounts to a nuclear explosion. What will it do to Wyden’s efforts, which have run across decades, to reach out across the aisle?

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One Comment

  1. aartimus aartimus August 15, 2012

    Wyden wants to be a serious politician who finds practical solutions to the the problems facing this county. This is an admirable sentiment but fails to take into account the world we live in.

    Washington Post columnist described Wyden as “the senator from the planet were congress works.” ( That about sums it up. Wyden wants to do the “right thing”, but naively fails to realize that his version of the right thing and the Republicans’ version are completely incompatible.

    What he doesn’t seem to grasp is that the Republicans aren’t interested in using the institutions of government to solve problems. They have entirely given themselves over to the theory that the government — as Ronald Reagan famously said — is the problem, not the solution. Instead they place an almost a religious faith in the power of the free market to solve all problem — if only it wasn’t constrained by taxes and government interference. They’ll do anything to implement their radical version of American, including playing reasonable people like Wyden for fools.

    This current political landscape is incompatible with Wyden’s idealistic political view. I think this is quite remarkable for someone with his years of political experience.

    Maybe the embarrassing and politically damaging situation he finds himself in now will be a wake-up call that finally convinces him that compromising with extremist Republican ideologues is incompatible with doing the “right thing.”

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