Democrats need to get out of the Republicans’ way
House Republicans did indeed bulk at the Senate deal, and have now put together an alternative, and it sounds like pretty soon they’ll be an alternative to the alternative in order to appease those on the GOP’s far right. The major point of issue remains whether or not there’ll be changes to the ACA that allow Republicans to claim some form of decisive (and worthwhile) outcome. It all turns on a two year delay of the tax on medical device manufacturers, which appears to be a non-starter for Democrats.
At this point then it’s up to the Democrats to allow this thing to unravel on its own, and let Boehner be the one to try and pick up the pieces. They’re ready to deal on what I already thing is a clear victory for their opposition (see below). Materially that’s all they can do–anything else will most likely be futile, and only risk complicating how the public views this debacle, including potentially attributing more blame to Democrats.
[Original Post] – Philip Bump’s current write-up on the government shutdown negotiations is about as straightforward as you’ll find. He notes that the first step on the road to ending the political crisis in D.C. has already been taken, with the burden for further resolution now shouldered (however precariously) by Republicans in the House.
The mood throughout conventional media sites seems to be 1.) Yay, a deal is in sight! 2.) Democrats mostly won 3.) Republicans mostly lost. It’s partly framing from the media itself that’s making so many people buy into this response, not even because of any dubious false-equivalencies, but simply because the natural flow of the news-cycle has allowed the government shutdown to bleed into the debt ceiling debate as one singular, monolithic event.
And as such, it necessarily needs winners and losers. Who came out on top? Who does the public disapprove of more? But all of this neglects the longer-term view.
If the Senate’s deal currently goes through, Democrats will have made concessions and gained nothing. Bump lays out the terms of the roughly five-point agreement:
- Reopen the government at 2013 funding levels until the middle of January.
- Suspend the debt ceiling until early February.
- Add an income verification system to the Obamacare healthcare exchanges.
- Postpone an Obamacare-related fee for one year.
- Mandate a conference between the House and Senate to work out a longer-term deal by the middle of December.
Number one is a euphemism for “at sequestration levels of funding,” a major defeat for everyone involved in a time when the country needs far more aggregate spending–not less.
Number two is a promise to do this hostage negotiating yet again, and in a mid-term election year.
Number three is somewhat ironic, since it proposes to blow-up bureaucracy which Republicans would be howling about in any other circumstance, and doesn’t past the cost-benefit analysis either way.
Number four is meant to be symbolic–a “fig leaf” with which the Republicans can cover their retreat and save some face. The symbolism goes two ways though, and by conceding this now, Democrats will have to offer something at least just as symbolic when February comes.
Number five is pure optics. Congress will do what it can to hash out a budget agreement whether or not its members sign a piece of paper promising to do so. This should put number four in even sharper focus though: start giving the GOP cards now, and the Dems will have less of them to play once the actual good-faith negotiations supposedly start in earnest.
The best thing the Democrats could do right now world be to fuel the anxiety of Tea Party insurgents who are already beginning to balk at what they perceive as a “compromise.” Congratulate the Republican leadership for finally coming to the table, and being so willing to see eye to eye on things. Start pivoting to the media and insinuating that Boehner et al have seen the wisdom in mutual compromise, and demonstrated their courage and patriotism by putting differences aside and working to re-open the government for the good of all. Boehner will either still find enough support from his caucus, or have to ultimately abandon the deal and put a clean CR to a vote in last moments available to him.
This probably sounds awfully militant on my part. How can Reid press his weak counterparts when the possibility of default looms so large. Ted Cruz can’t be trusted to pull out of the dive at the last minute, so Democrats will have to play things more responsibly.
But this has been the strategy for some time now, and it still hasn’t fundamentally altered the balance of power or the framing of the problem. I’m not advocating default. I am proposing that Democrats stop affording Republicans the latitude to be so reckless. As long as the former is always their to take the keys at the end of the night, I don’t see why the latter will ever feel inspired to start taking these issues more seriously.