Barack Obama won two legislative victories this week, but he didn’t get any help from Republicans doing it, despite multiple attempts to reach out to them. The GOP is touting that as a victory, hoping Obama will make concessions to win their votes, even if he doesn’t need them. But the White House says it’s unconcerned about the party-line votes, and that Obama’s notion of bipartisanship is about civility and respect, not just bargaining.
Obama outreach to Republicans included meeting them on Capitol Hill, inviting leaders for cocktails and including several in his Super Bowl party. “We got the sense that he was very genuine,” says one representative. But if “it doesn’t have an impact, it begins to hurt his credibility.” Obama’s camp says he cares more open discussion than forging compromises. “Being bipartisan,” says Steny Hoyer, “does not mean having to lay down and say we'll do whatever you want.”