Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why Democrats Lost the FAA Fight, and What They Should Do Next Time

I have a new column out over at TAP on the FAA fight:

Here’s what Democrats should have done, and should be ready to do next time that a Republicans object to a specific program cut...Democrats should collect all of their sequestration complaints: Head Start, Meals on Wheels, and on and on. Next time Republicans squawk about a terrible spending cut (maybe to defense contracts?), Senate Democrats should immediately rush a bill to the floor to satisfy the Republican complaint along with a similar-sized Democratic objection. And they should satisfy those complaints, but not by giving agencies “flexibility” to take money away from some other, unspecified, program. No, they should flat-out cancel the cuts.
Lots more over there explaining why that's the right strategy, and why Democrats were bound to lose with the strategy they were following.

Would it work? I think there's a fairly good chance that it would. Asking Republicans to move on taxes is asking them to go back on, really, their number one campaign promise. Asking them to let the deficit get a bit bigger...well, I don't think they really care, and I don't think most GOP-aligned groups really care.

The fallback position, which I didn't get into over in the column, should be for Democrats to demand that if Republicans want some sequestration cut restored then it should be Republicans who supply a specific corresponding program cut. Not agency flexibility. But again, that should be paired with a Democratic priority, even if it is paid for.

The best solution, however, is to just restore funding without pay-fors. As far as I can see, for Democrats that's both the best politics and the best policy.


  1. The last party that tried to maximize their advantage was rightly accused of "taking hostages." The public agreed, and they didn't do so well in the 2012 election. They didn't even do that well in the negotiations at hand. Now, JB, you recommend a similar strategy for the Dems? That's not clear thinking.

    Any party that overreaches and tries to do too much with its leverage is going to look greedy, and this is not the time to look greedy. There are limits to what you can do with leverage, and trying to load in the goodies is beyond the pale in tough financial times. I expect the Dems won't adopt your plan because a) it won't work, and b) it would cost them at the next election.

    1. Disagree! (Naturally). Republicans squawk. Democrats rush a bill to the Senate floor, with not just one but two goodies. Democrats aren't obstructing anything; if Republicans object, they're the ones obstructing things.

    2. Maybe the Dems will try it and we'll get to see a test of your hypothesis, actually both yours and mine. Fun in social science!

    3. Nobody cares about the budget or the deficit, MP, beyond the political mileage to be made from it. I think JB is exactly right about that. Nor do I think the public is paying the slightest bit of attention to maneuvering in Congress, and would not base votes on it even if they were. So I think JB is quite right that the best way forward for Dems is to tell the GOP, "let's just be hypocrites together, or you don't get what you want.". Oh, sure the GOP will roar and posture. But it won't make the slightest difference in 2014, when the GOP is going to win anyway, nor in 2016, when nobody will give a snap of the fingers about deficit hypocrisy three years in the past. In the end, the budget just isn't very important.

    4. Or it would be better to say that the budget is important for policy, but the deficit isn't really important to anybody, beyond the opportunity to preen and grandstand, and nothing about constructive and useful hypocrisy keeps either side from doing that.

    5. @Anastasios, the budget is still an effective McGuffin to "preen and grandstand" over, and it will happen when one side or other slips up and pushes too hard. I may hold a minority opinion on this, but I hold it quite firmly--not out of egotism, but because my predictions have been pretty good lately. My read on this Congress--trench warfare--everyone keeping their heads down. No proposals that alter the stalemate, no heroics, and no one shutting down the government.

      But, as I said, we'll see, if and when the Dems try JB's strategy. If they never do, at least I'll know why.

  2. Oh, you are right about the trench warfare, MP. But what JB is talking about is scarcely the Battle if the Somme. More just one more skirmish in the never ending conflict.


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