As Paul Krugman notes in his column today decrying the move as an “indefensible” giveaway to Wall Street “wheelers and dealers,” this was more about tactics than substance:
It’s true that most of the political headlines these past few days have been about Democratic division, with Senator Elizabeth Warren urging rejection of a funding bill the White House wanted passed. But this was mainly a divide about tactics, with few Democrats actually believing that undoing Dodd-Frank is a good idea.
Or, as the Post write-up puts it: “the question was not whether Democrats supported the individual provisions…it was whether individual members considered them so egregious as to merit blowing up a wide-ranging deal.”
Indeed, even opponents of the provision may not have supported sinking the whole deal in the end. There are signs Nancy Pelosi may have quietly signaled to Dems that they should feel free to vote Yes on the government funding bill, once they had failed to get the bad provision pulled. And Dem Senators who voted No could do so in the knowledge that the overall bill would pass; it’s unclear whether they would have sank the whole thing. After all, funding the government for a year makes it harder for Republicans to use brinksmanship to target Obamacare and E.P.A. regulations or damage the recovery.
So what does all this mean going forward? There is broad Democratic agreement that the party must come up with a more comprehensive response to stagnating wages and the failure of the recovery to achieve widespread, more equitable distribution. Dems mostly agree on a range of policy responses, such as a minimum wage hike, pay equity, expanded pre-K education, and big job-creating investments in infrastructure.
But there are clear divisions, too. Democrats like Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Bernie Sanders favor some form of breaking up big banks and back expanding Social Security; Sanders wants major reform to trade policies; and some Democrats oppose the big trade deals now being negotiated. By contrast, I’m not sure where Clinton stands on proposals like these. Such disagreements reflect deeper, more fundamental differences over the true structural causes of runaway inequality.
Meanwhile, even the tactical disagreements on display in the just-concluded budget battle could matter more and more over time. Progressives will demand maximum resistance to future efforts to whittle away at Wall Street reform, while more Wall Street-friendly Dems may be too compromising on this front.
So, the question is: How deep do these differences run, and what are they really about? Hopefully the Dem primary process will help sort this out, and if further challenges from the Warren wing force more debate along these lines, that can only be a good thing.
* TED CRUZ TACTIC GOES DOWN IN FLAMES: Over the weekend Ted Cruz tried a last-minute tactic to block the budget deal, a constitutional point-of-order vote against Obama’s executive action on deportations. It went down in flames, even though Cruz said this before the vote:
“If you believe President Obama’s executive order was unconstitutional vote yes. If you think the president’s executive order is constitutional vote no.”
The Cruz move infuriated fellow Republicans, some 20 of whom ultimately opposed it. So, by Cruz’s own lights, all those Republican Senators think Obama’s move is Constitutional, right?
* CRUZ ALLOWS DEMS TO MOVE NOMINATIONS: Sean Sullivan explains how Cruz’ move had the paradoxical effect of allowing Harry Reid to move forward with executive branch nominations that Republicans and conservatives oppose. The result, in part, is that this week, Reid will try to move votes on Vivek Murthy as surgeon general (whom Republicans oppose partly because he says guns are a public health issue) and Sarah Saldaña to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (which will implement Obama’s action on deportations).
It’s unclear whether Reid will succeed, but still: Nice work, Senator Cruz!
* LEFT PUTS DEM LEADERS PUT ON NOTICE: E.J. Dionne explains the deeper meaning of the left’s challenge to the cromnibus. As he puts it: “Senate Democratic leaders, soon facing minority status, may have learned that they will have to take both their own progressive wing and their House colleagues much more seriously.”
* JEB BUSH FOR PRESIDENT!!! The signs are mounting that Jeb Bush is seriously considering a run for the White House. Good: Maybe now the GOP can have an actual debate over immigration.
* NEW PUSH FOR LEGISLATION AGAINST TORTURE: On Meet the Press , Dick Cheney (unsurprisingly) staunchly defended the Bush torture program, saying: “I would do it again in a minute.” In other news, Dem Senator Ron Wyden had this to say:
“What I’m especially troubled by is John Brennan on Thursday really opened the door to the possibility of torture being used again. And that’s why it’s so important that our report come out. And what I intend to do with my colleagues right when we come back is I intend to introduce legislation to make it clear, for example, that if torture is used in the future there would be a basis to prosecute.”
Congress could pass legislation codifying Obama’s executive order banning torture and restricting techniques to the Army Field Manuel. Of course, it isn’t going to happen in the new GOP-controlled Senate. But let’s hope this goes forward in some fashion, if only to put lawmakers on record against it.
* TORTURE DEFENDERS ALL OVER SUNDAY SHOWS: In his write-up of the Cheney-torture-palooza on NBC, Scott Shane observes:
Defenders of the program…outnumbered those criticizing its methods on Sunday morning’s political shows.
Sure, the torture defenders have mounted fierce push-back. But what does this tell us about the Sunday shows?
* AND AMERICANS DON’T MIND TORTURE ALL THAT MUCH: A new CBS News poll finds large majorities of Americans regard the following techniques as torture: Waterboarding (69 percent); forcing people to stay awake for 180 hours (70 percent); threatening to sexually abuse a prisoner’s mother (73 percent).
But a plurality of Americans (49-36) thinks such tactics are sometimes justified, and 57 percent think they provide reliable information that helps prevent attacks some of the time. So there you have it.