September 30, 2013

With House GOP leaders set to decide as early as today between stiff-arming the Tea Party and taking the blame for a government shutdown, I dug up my old college dictionary and looked up the word “compromise.” Here’s the primary definition:

 A settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions

Careful readers will note that a compromise requires concessions from both sides, not just one side. The relevance of this will become clear in a moment.

Today, as the Post’s write up explains, House Republicans are likely to offer a new proposal to avoid a government shutdown, one that includes a repeal of Obamacare’s medical device tax, or perhaps repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or eliminating Obamacare subsidies for lawmakers and staff. This comes after House Republicans voted over the weekend to tie funding of the government to a year-long Obamacare delay. This morning, Senate Dems will reject that proposal, requiring a response from Republicans, likely along the lines of the three mentioned above.

Republicans right now are working very hard to cast these various ideas — ones that fund the government but also delay or block parts of Obamacare — as “compromises,” because they don’t constitute the total destruction of the law that Republicans want. On Face the Nation yesterday, Rand Paul said: “We have now offered a new compromise, our new compromise is not getting rid of his signature achievement, but delaying it.” Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi, a close ally of John Boehner, claims Republicans are already compromising because they are no longer demanding total defunding.

Expect lots more of this. With House Republicans set offer yet another measure today that chips away at Obamacare, you can expect them to call on Obama to “compromise” by embracing it. Indeed, Boehner is casting the Dem refusal to accept a one year delay of Obamacare as “an act of arrogance.”

In other words, Republicans are asking Obama and Dems to “compromise” with them by giving them only some of what they want under threat of a government shutdown, rather than all of it. Republicans are claiming that in dropping their demand for the total destruction of Obamacare, they are making a big concession, which should be rewarded by a concession by Dems: Agreeing to fund the government with a delay of Obamacare or a repeal of parts of it.

But both sides agree that a government shutdown should be avoided. Asking for only some of the undermining of Obamacare you want in exchange for doing what you agree must happen for the good of the country, rather than all of it, is not a concession and doesn’t demonstrate a willingness to compromise. After all, what Republicans want is to fund the government at sequester levels (which is already a win for them; Republicans themselves have described the sequester as a “victory”), and to delay or block parts of Obamacare on top of that. In the “compromise” scenario Republicans are insisting on, then, only one side — Democrats — would be making concessions, and Republicans wouldn’t be giving up anything. Folks inclined to blame “both sides” for what’s happening here need to reckon with this basic imbalance.

This also goes to the heart of how this will likely play out politically. Republicans like to cite Obamacare’s unpopularity as evidence the public will support whatever is necessary to undermine or slow it. But public perceptions of which side is more compromising, reasonable, and committed to constructive governing will also shape the politics of a shutdown. On this score, Obama has a clear advantage — and Republican efforts to redefine the meaning of “compromise” are unlikely to change this. Americans are likely to blame Republicans, because of already existing perceptions of them as the intransigent, unreasonable party.

 * POLL FINDS OBAMA WITH ADVANTAGE IN SHUTDOWN FIGHT: Related to the above, a new CNN poll finds:

* 69 percent of Americans say Congressional Republicans are acting like spoiled children; only one in four say they are acting like responsible adults.

* A plurality says Obama is acting like a responsible adult in this battle, 49-46.

* Six in 10 say it is more important for Congress to avoid a shutdown than to make major changes to Obamacare; only one third say defunding the law is more important.

* 46 percent would blame Congressional Republicans for a shutdown; only 36 percent would blame Obama.

All of this is true even though Obamacare polls badly. Preexisting perceptions of both sides will influence how the public views a shutdown.

* BOEHNER FACES A BIG TEST: Via Taegan Goddard, National Review offers this interesting nugget:

That aura of Republican infighting will create an interesting dynamic if Tuesday morning comes without an accord. While Boehner and other leaders will be defending the GOP’s position in front of the cameras, there may be a subtle effort to use the episode — and what many expect to be its disastrous political results — as a means of discrediting the hardliners who give the speaker headaches. Conservatives, meanwhile, will try to show that the tactic is helping focus public attention on Obamacare.

My question: Is Boehner dragging us to the brink to demonstrate as clearly as possible to conservatives that the crusade to stop Obamacare is futile — to show that Senate Dems will shut it down no matter what Boehner does – thus making it easier to cave and pass a clean bill funding the government later?

* MODERATE REPUBLICANS URGE GOP LEADERS TO BACK DOWN: Here’s a key dynamic to watch: How many moderate Republicans will go public with calls for House GOP leaders to relent and allow a House vote on a “clean CR” that would temporarily fund the government with no defunding of Obamacare? GOP Rep. Charlie Dent, for instance, says he’s actively courting Republicans to support such a move:

“I’m prepared to vote for a clean resolution tomorrow,” Mr. Dent said. “It’s time to govern. I don’t intend to support a fool’s errand at this point.”

Look for more non-Tea Party Republicans to begin doing this today.

* GOP SENATOR REBUKES HOUSE REPUBLICANS: Senator Susan Collins is criticizing fellow Republicans in the House for voting again to block Obamacare in connection with funding the government, which she aptly describes as “linking Obamacare to the continued functioning of government,” which risks causing a “disruption in many vital programs on which our citizens rely.”

As Collins notes, the strategy “cannot possibly work.” This will strengthen the hand of Dems, because they’ve been united behind their strategy of keeping the pressure on Republicans to drop their effort to tie Obamacare to government funding, even as Republicans (as Collins demonstrates) continue to fracture.

* BOEHNER COULD END THESE CRISES IF HE WANTED TO: Paul Krugman says what must not be said about the government shutdown and debt limit crises:

The votes to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling are there, and always have been: every Democrat in the House would vote for the necessary measures, and so would enough Republicans. The problem is that G.O.P. leaders, fearing the wrath of the radicals, haven’t been willing to allow such votes.

Boehner does not have to allow a radical minority to paralyze our whole government. Yet you can read article after article without being informed that Boehner could keep the government open with Dem votes if he were willing.

* PUBLIC PREPARES FOR OBAMACARE: A new Gallup poll finds that 65 percent of uninsured Americans plan to get health insurance, in keeping with Obamacare’s individual mandate, while a plurality says it will do so via the exchanges, a number Gallup expects to rise as familiarity with them increases.

I’ll wait for the health wonks to weigh in before reaching any conclusions, but for now this looks moderately encouraging. Also key: What percentage of young uninsured intend to get insurance? More on this later.

* ELIZABETH WARREN PUSHES DEMOCRATIC PARTY TO LEFT: Jonathan Martin has an interesting look at how Senator Elizabeth Warren is building a national power base that is exerting a leftward, economic populist pull on the Democratic Party overall. Warren says she’s not interested in running for president, but note this:

“If Hillary doesn’t run, I bet there will be plenty of folks, particularly on the left, urging her to look at it,” said David Axelrod, a longtime adviser to Mr. Obama, who called Ms. Warren “an electric figure” among liberals.

Axelrod is being careful here, but I assume a lot of people will urge her to run even if Hillary does, too.

 * AND THE QUOTE OF THE DAY, DEBT CEILING DUNCECAP EDITION: GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy blasts Obama for refusing to negotiate over the debt limit:

“We want to grow jobs, we want America to start working again. How is that crazy?” McCarthy said. “When did it become in America that creating jobs was something wrong?”

Yes, threatening default and global economic havoc is a great way to create jobs!

What else?

 

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.