Wednesday was not a banner day for Democrats. They were dismissed by the White House and then defeated in the Senate.
At Jay Carney’s press briefing, there was this exchange:
Q Right, at some point. But yesterday several leading Senate Democrats said that these negotiations that we’re talking about now for the CR need to be broadened to talk about things that are mandatory and not just domestic non-discretionary. So does he think that is premature?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would just say that we welcome the input from members and look forward to getting to the point where we are talking about reaching a deal on a continuing resolution that funds the government through the fiscal year, so that we can move on to --
Q So that has to come first?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not making a dividing line. But I don’t think that anyone thinks between now and March 18th we will resolve entitlement reform, tax expenditures, and all the other issues that go into a much bigger deal. But the elements that would go into a fiscal year 2011 agreement I don’t want to negotiate from here.
Q Jay, is the President then -- to follow up on Mara -- is it waiting for the House Republicans to put forward their broad budget before it would be prepared to enter into broader negotiations?
MR. CARNEY: Jackie, we are in a situation, as we were last week, where the government shuts down on March 18th -- I mean, we’re not -- we need to resolve the issue on the table, which is funding for fiscal year 2011. So we’re not waiting for anything to get to those talks. So we’re eager to --
Q But the broader negotiations -- he’s put out his budget, so now --
MR. CARNEY: I think you’re asking me a version of what Mara said, which is -- and I’m not, from here, separating the near term from the short term, except that we don’t have a choice but to deal with the near term funding posed by the short-term extension.
Translation: We’re not going to condone this wild-goose chase. (Note to liberal pundits: Forgo running defense for every dopey gambit to come out of the Senate. Many if not most of them will be defeated or abandoned, leaving the spinners with egg on their faces. Yeah, what ever happened to filibuster reform)?
Then came the Senate votes. A senior Republican adviser observed that Democrats were blindsided when the Republican spending cut package got more votes (44) than the Democrats’ plan (42): “I don’t think they were expecting to do worse than us. It really screws up their messaging.” Not to mention the election prospects of red-state Democrats.
Now what do Democrats say? The White House wants the CR done and isn’t going to get into a tax and entitlement discussion with the March 18 deadline looming. So now the question is how close to $61 billion will they be forced to accept?
Say what you will, but understand that in December we were talking about a monstrous omnibus spending bill with thousands of earmarks; in March we are talking about how much the Democrats will be forced to cut. That’s a change I can believe in.