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March Mania

OUR OPINION: 'They pass 70-30, or they fail'

Rep. Kevin Cramer's argument on this page is strong. But it lacks one key element:

Significant Democratic support.

If the House Republicans' food-stamp reforms fail (and with them, the Farm Bill), that will be the key reason why.

The GOP, of all parties, should have learned this lesson over the past few years. Then it should have used its hard-won wisdom to craft bipartisan reforms, which would have not only improved the food-stamp program but also waxed and shined the Republican Party's image.

The reason why the GOP should have insisted on a bipartisan approach? Obamacare.

Famously, it passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote, and that fact has haunted the policy ever since.

Obamacare's partisan origins mean the act is anything but "settled law." It remains hotly disputed, with one party and half the nation hoping for its failure and pressing for its repeal.

That's no way to pass health care reform, as Republicans well know.

Nor is it the way to pass food stamp reform. Such changes don't work well unless there's healthy "buy-in" from both parties. Republicans wanted that in 2010 and were furious when Democrats wouldn't yield. The GOP should have demanded no less of itself this time around.

By the way, this is not a new insight. It's simply an accurate one. "Maybe you eke out a victory of 50-plus-1," said presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2007.

(But) "Then you can't govern. We've got to break out of what I call the 50-plus-1 pattern of presidential politics."

And fully 20 years ago, then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used the same logic on Bill and Hillary Clinton, as Moynihan tried to steer them away from a narrow health care reform victory. tells the story:

"Moynihan repeated one insistent warning: Sweeping, historic laws don't pass barely. 'They pass 70-to-30,' he said, 'or they fail.'"

In 1996, welfare reform made Moynihan's grade. It passed the House 328-101, the Senate 78-21 and was signed by a Democratic president.

Food-stamp reformers including Cramer should have held out for that kind of support.