President Obama is often blamed for not reaching out to Republicans. In truth, as Monday morning’s announcement that Obama wants to cut the pay of all federal employees illustrates, he has the opposite problem. Obama frequently proposes essentially Republican policies, which makes it impossible for him to use those ideas to buy Republican votes for bipartisan legislation.
When legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions was being negotiated in the Senate Obama undermined the bargaining process by simply unilaterally opening up new areas for offshore oil drilling. Increased drilling was supposed to be one of the things Democrats gave to Republicans in a comprehensive energy reform bill as an inducement to vote for it. Republicans hardly applauded Obama for the move, and the average swing voter seems not to have given the Democrats any credit for it in the recent election. In fact, the BP oil spill turned the drilling decision into a potential liability for Democrats.