Thursday, September 12, 2013

Why Aren't Dems Fighting on the CR?

This is one where I've apparently been completely wrong: contrary to what I've assumed, Senate Democrats and Barack Obama are apparently eager to be rolled on the CR, at least to a large extent. Here's Greg Sargent this morning:
The key thing here is that the GOP leadership plan would actually work — if Republicans could pass it. Senate Democratic aides have told me they would probably pass the temporary funding of the government at current levels, whereupon they would defeat the defund-Obamacare provision. 
Kevin Drum is quite right: the correct way to characterize this is "Liberals are getting ready to cave in without a fight yet again." Again? Yes; Democrats could have fought back against sequestration level spending in the last CR, back in the spring, which funded the government through the end of the fiscal year; instead, they decided to accept it. There's also Democratic acquiescence in various sequestration "fixes."

What's odd here is that almost everyone believes that Democrats have a fair amount of negotiating leverage, in that almost everyone believes that Republicans will be blamed for a shutdown if the sides can't agree on a CR by the end of the month. And yet Senate Democrats and Barack Obama don't want to fight for their budget priorities here.

All of which makes my post yesterday about the importance of the House wrong. Oh, and Brian Beutler correct. If Senate Democrats and Obama will accept a House-authored CR, then obviously the House CR is quite important after all.

At least, that's what will be the case if the reporting holds up. Or, to be more precise, if the House can manage to pass something like what they pulled from the floor yesterday, and Democrats accept it. Given that House Republicans apparently can't pass the thing, we may never know exactly how it will play out. But assuming that reporting is correct...I really don't understand it, and I think Democrats are erring. In fact, they're erring in a way that's sort of parallel to how Republicans are erring. Look, the bottom line here is that sequestration is such a bad policy (as it was designed to be!) that it shouldn't be hard at all for win-win deals that replace parts or all of sequestration with each side's reasonable priorities. The Republicans aren't fighting for theirs, for the most part, because of the Obamacare obsession and because of their post-policy lack of interest in details. The Democrats aren't fighting for theirs because...I have no idea.


  1. Given that the House Republicans aren't likely to actually pass a CR, what exactly are the Dems actually caving to?

    Perhaps this is more a matter of signaling to the MSM how bend-over-backwards reasonable the Dems are being. Which in turn could help push the MSM from their false-equivalence narrative to the gradually emerging narrative that the GOP really *is* crackpot.

  2. perhaps Dems want the government shutdown fight AFTER having stared down the GOP in the debt limit fight. I think they have better leverage on the debt limit, and if they are successful there, they should be in a slightly better position to negotiate a CR, or a budget, closer to their terms.

  3. Maybe they're eager to see the Republican establishment sell out conservatives?

  4. "we may never know exactly how it will play out."

    That sounds... interesting.

  5. Would the House GOP even listen to what the Dems want? It's probably counterproductive for the Dems to tell the GOP what they'd like, because the GOP might make sure not to do it. I know that this sounds crazy, but that's the way it's been now for 5 years. Dems want a stimulus--there shouldn't be one. And so on.

    The Dems are better off keeping quiet. Maybe the GOP will accidentally propose something that they like. Besides, keeping quiet has served the Dems well.

  6. Seems pretty obvious to me.

    Democrats consider just keeping the government running without repealing Obamacare as their "win".

    To be fair though, Democrats have been fighting these sequester shenanigans. No Democrats are supporting this bill. You can bet that if the CR didn't pull any funny business with the sequester, Democrats would vote for it.

    If Democrats supported this CR, it would have gotten through the House. The reason why Republicans have so much trouble with it is because if Democrats all vote against it, they need the vast majority of Republicans to support it.

    The only thing is that if the House CAN pass a CR that pulls some stunts with the sequester, the Democrats in the Senate will just roll with it and Obama will sign it. So while they're putting pressure on Republicans to actually get it through the House, they're not willing to risk a shutdown over it. Democrats are willing to give some concessions to keep the government open (it's just that they won't go so far as to repeal Obamacare to get a few months of funding for the government).

    Another thing is that what the Republicans are doing with the sequester is kind of technical, so Democrats are nervous about drawing too much attention to it, because it's easy for it to look like it's some technical issue that doesn't really matter. It'd be easy for neutral and conservative media to portray it as Democrats being picky over the exact levels of funding in the CR, instead of just being reasonable.

    The Democrats have an incentive to be as ridiculously conciliatory as possible short of actually doing something like repealing Obamacare. Picking as few fights as possible makes it harder for Republicans to avoid receiving the full blame for it. The Democrats want to prevent the neutral media from being able to say "Both sides had unreasonable demands, Republicans wanted Obamacare to be repealed, Democrats picked fights over the specific funding levels, if only both sides could compromise a little!"

    If we do get into a shutdown and Republicans receive 100% of the blame even in the neutral press, the Democrats have maximum leverage for the talks to reopen the government.

    1. Neutral press? What's that?

      But really, I think your analysis is quite good, maybe even spot-on. If you said "almost-neutral press" I'd have nothing to joke about.

    2. I mean neutral as in not explicitly partisan or ideological. Their pursuit of "neutrality" is a form of bias, but it's not the same thing as a partisan bias. The "neutral" press is very likely to have a blame both sides response to almost anything, regardless of if both sides are really at fault.

      So I would say that they are somewhat neutral, but neutrality is its own form of bias.

    3. This is exactly on point. Theirs is a 'neutrality' that took a Bloomberg presidential bid with a straight face, etc.

      They are deeply committed to false equivalence, but GOP behavior has gotten so risable that there are hints of wavering.

    4. I wish. This is wishful thinking. Liberals like us have been hoping since at least the 2008 campaign for this, and it never comes.


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