Is Negotiation Possible?

Oct 8 2013 @ 12:23pm

Obama pointed out yesterday that the Democrats have already compromised:

He’s having a presser today at 2 pm. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, Douthat thinks the president’s refusal to negotiate is a mistake:

It makes it sound like the very idea of negotiating around the debt ceiling is unprecedented (which it isn’t) and a threat to the constitutional order (which it hasn’t been), and makes it seem like the Republican Party’s grave sin is the politicization of the debt ceiling per se (even though both parties have regularly politicized it), rather than the fact that the G.O.P. is trying to enter into debt ceiling negotiations in pursuit of politically-impossible goals.

Chait counters:

Douthat proceeds to argue that debt-ceiling extortion would be fine if Republicans had attainable policy demands. It’s somewhat of a characteristic flaw of Douthat’s style that he dwells inordinately on the imagined world in which the sane, technocratically reasonable Republican Party he wishes existed actually exists. … Ultimately, Douthat is not grappling with any of the structural problems inherent in leaving the weapon of default lying around the political system, waiting to be picked up by any sufficiently ruthless actor. He’s subsuming the problem in a fantasy world in which nobody would ever use such power irresponsibly.

I’m waiting for Ross to unload on the GOP, which he should, given the rationale of his post. But he appears to be rhetorically lying low – the position “reasonable” Republicans have taken as their party has become more and more galvanized by the crazy. In my view, the cowardice of Republican elites and Republican moderates is at least a big a problem as the fanaticism of the Republican base. George Will, for example, has gone from being a calm conservative to being a climate change denialist who is now going to work for Fox News. And people wonder why we are in a deep crisis of governance. First Read suggests a compromise:

[H]ere is a POTENTIAL resolution to this entire stand-off: Congress could pass a clean debt-ceiling for a few months, meeting the president’s requirement of doing it without negotiating. But after that, there’s a negotiation over a longer raise (or ending the debt limit altogether), with the sequester, entitlements, etc. thrown in. Everybody wins: The president gets to say he got Congress to act without negotiating; Boehner can claim he got Obama to the negotiating table.

Some in the GOP are now proposing yet another super-committee along those lines. Dickerson sees the rationale:

House would pass a “clean” debt limit increase and clean continuing resolution to keep government funded, which is what the president wants. Then there would be a side agreement cooked up by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Boehner that would include something that Republicans want. That agreement would name budget conferees to debate the big issues of spending, taxes, entitlements, and economic growth, and it would include some guarantee—probably in the form of a stick—to make sure the conferees did their work. …

Both sides need an escape hatch. When Boehner has told members he won’t allow a breach of the debt limit, this is the kind of jerry-rigged deal he’s envisioning. Such an agreement would also allow President Obama to stand firm on his position that he won’t negotiate, but it also rescues him from the potential downside of looking like he’s refusing to act during a crisis that could cripple the economy. In return, House Republicans could tell their supporters that they earned a real chance at future reductions in government spending.

Ezra doubts that yet another budget commission would produce anything of value. But it could be a way out of the current crisis:

The White House’s view is that they’ll compromise on process but not on policy. A new commission counts as a process compromise. If that’s enough for Republicans to save face, then it’s a low-cost way out of this mess. But it’s hard to believe anyone in Washington will buy the idea that yet another budget commission has even a shadow of a chance at success. And even if they do, what happens when the commission fails, and the next CR and debt-ceiling increase needs to be passed?

Steinglass urges Obama to stop being so damn reasonable:

The problem Republicans are having right now is an outgrowth of a longer-term issue they’ve had ever since the 2008 elections: the GOP does not really have much of a policy agenda. For the past five years, the party has been defined almost entirely by everything it is against. ….

When Mr Obama stops speaking as a partisan advocate of ambitious liberal goals, adopts his mature school-principal voice, and demands simply that political players adhere to reasonable norms of democratic governance, Republicans are left with nothing to oppose except the reasonable norms of democratic governance. At the moment, Republicans need to be reminded that Democrats do not want the government to reopen and the interest on our debt to be paid. They want the government to reopen, double its infrastructure spending and guarantee pre-school from age three to poor Americans; they want to pay the interest on our debt, then borrow more to run larger deficits right now and for the next couple of years, and lock in higher taxes five to ten years down the road to handle the long-term deficit problem. A fight between Democrats and Republicans over whether or not those are good ideas is a fight America can survive and even thrive with. A fight over whether or not to default on our debt isn’t.