Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 1, 2010

THE PROSPECT OF GRAND BARGAINS.... At face value, Democrats would appear to have the advantage in the lame-duck session. They not only have large majorities in both chambers, they're hoping to pass several measures -- the Dems' tax-cut plan, New START, DADT repeal and troop funding -- that enjoy broad national support.

And yet, it's Republicans who are refusing to negotiate, and acting as if they have everything going their way. This was made abundantly clear again this morning when the entire Senate GOP caucus said they'll kill literally everything on the lame-duck agenda until they're satisfied with the outcome of the debate on tax policy.

There are, however, some reports about the possibility of a grand bargain.

The participants [at yesterday's bipartisan discussion at the White House] emerged smiling and with a loose framework -- though they did not outline it publicly -- that could result in the temporary extension of all the tax cuts, as well as the ratification of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, the continuation of unemployment benefits and funding for government operations into next year.

Other reports hinted at a similar deal.

With a negotiating framework in place, lawmakers said they could begin to see the contours of a potential outcome that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts temporarily while giving Democrats some concessions on unemployment compensation, the estate tax or other tax cuts that were included in the stimulus package and will also expire this year.

"Now it is all about what Democrats can get," said one Democratic senator who did not want to be identified talking about the prospect of the White House and Congressional Democrats conceding on extending the tax cuts for affluent Americans.

So, Republicans would get $4 trillion in tax cuts that do almost nothing to help the economy, disproportionately benefiting millionaires and billionaires, and which most of the public opposes. In exchange, Democrats would get ... something. Maybe New START, maybe extended unemployment benefits, maybe some combination of sought-after agenda items.

First, it should go without saying, but if Dems are going to cave on $4 trillion in tax cuts that don't work and Americans don't even want, making the deficit considerably worse in the process, they should get an awful lot in return.

Second, establishing the terms of a grand bargain like this only works if Republicans believe Dems are credible negotiating partners. In other words, if GOP leaders are convinced they can get everything they want without any concessions on literally anything, they'll simply wait for Democratic weakness.

Steve Benen 10:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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The main difference between Republicans and Democrats is that the GOP can get its folks organized and all agreeing on direction, and the Democrats can't.

Until that changes and the Democratic Party develops any sort of discipline, the GOP will be able to do this.

Posted by: JEA on December 1, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Dems should call the bluff and let all tax cuts expire. Keep Congress in session through Christmas if necessary. These shenanigans have gone on long enough. It is easy: You don't want to negotiate on START, DADT, unemployment extensions? Fine, tax cuts get to expire for everyone until the other side shows some willingness to cooperate in governance.

Posted by: withay on December 1, 2010 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, but the GOP already has everything going it way, and has since 1/20/2009. After all, they currently have a 41-59 majority in the Senate, right?

Like I said, the Dems are gormless, + the GOP is soulless. Pick your poison.


Posted by: Zorro on December 1, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

"..if GOP leaders are convinced they can get everything they want without any concessions on literally anything, they'll simply wait for Democratic weakness."

The letter they just signed indicates that any concessions to the Democrats will come only after they get their tax cuts. But, could this just be a con game? Once they get their cuts up front, what assurance is there that they'll let any other legislation proceed? If you look back at the past two years, I would bet that Republicans are bargaining in bad faith, shaking the President's hand while giving him the finger behind his back.

It's a trap!!!!

Posted by: delNorte on December 1, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

As a liberal, I am disturbed by Obama's record in areas such as continued wars, civil liberties violations, and expanded executive branch power. By far the most disturbing though is that he apparently would end up on the short side of negotiations even if he was bargaining with inanimate objects. He went to law school. Did he never even read Getting To Yes?

Posted by: Shalimar on December 1, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

I guess my reaction would be to broadcast far and wide that there will be no votes on extending any tax cuts until there is demonstrated willingness to work on a compromise. And every day, you start the Gibbs press conference with "Today is day number X that the Republicans will not allow a vote on extending middle class tax cuts." Since compromise is clearly not on the table, they will expire. And then immediately introduce a tax cut for middle class. Call it the Obama tax cuts and make it a centerpiece of SOTU.

I really don't see why this is all that complicated.

Posted by: Barbara on December 1, 2010 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with withay. Call their bluff.

Posted by: You Don't Say on December 1, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

By a "Grand Bargain," I take it you mean that Obama and the Dem's do no bargaining, and just give in on everything to the Republicans. How 'grand!'

Posted by: c u n d gualg on December 1, 2010 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

I thought the "good-cop, bad-cop" routine was so well-known that it's a cliche. Apparently not. Republicans get to play bad cop: "Vote for our plans or we'll punish you." Democrats get to play good cop: "We'd like to vote against Republicans, but they're so mean, so we'll have to do what they say."

Posted by: Tom Allen on December 1, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

There is only one position to take these days:

Raise taxes on the über rich. Here in America the top 1% take 25% of yearly income, that is obscene when Az Gov Jan Brewer is trying to kick 300,000 people off Medicaid and already let on person die because Az cut transplants for Medicaid patients, mouthing soft words while shoving more people towards death.

If you don't believe me... Look it up "AZ transplant death" on google.

This is death one... Do we need a few more before people say anything?

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on December 1, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

The Secessionist just fired on Fort Sumter. Is Buchanan president or Lincoln? Pelosi might have the courage of Thaddeus Stevens, but is there anyone in the Senate with the spine of Sumner and Wade?

Posted by: Midland on December 1, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

The time for calling their bluff on the Bush tax rates was before the election, when it could have done some good. Now it would be satisfying only for a very short period of time. There won't be enough time to hang the consequences on the GOP before they can turn the tables.

Once the new Congress gets in, the GOP will pass a rich-man-friendly bill through the House, and Democrats trying to stop it will be 'blocking tax cuts for Americans'.

Posted by: biggerbox on December 1, 2010 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

I hope and pray that the Dems realize the enormity of the moment: How they respond to the ultimatum laid down by McConnell will effectively dictate the level of support Democrats will be willing to provide to their party.

Failing this test will result in a collective throwing up of hands and a $4 trillion debt that will devastate this country even more than the last 9 years of tax cuts already have.

Again, and I can't repeat this often enough, the CBO and Alan Greenspan both stated under oath during testimony that the ENTIRE debt would have been paid off by now without the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003.

Facts simply don't get much more mind-blowing than that.

Posted by: Kiweagle on December 1, 2010 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Throw in a public option on health care, huge Defense cuts and a corresponding increase in infrastructure spending and maybe we can talk about a temporary extension. Otherwise, it's been nice talking to you gentlemen. Enjoy a drink on your way out.

Posted by: beejeez on December 1, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Really, besides the birdbrains who live in Fox-land, who cares about tax cuts for the rich? Who is really going to man the barricades on this one? Geezers in their mobility scooters?

Damn, I wish Obama was a fighter, but I can sense another great capitulation coming.

Posted by: walt on December 1, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

This is just awful. Perhaps it is time to consider "Second Amendment Remedies" with these fascist traitors.

Posted by: TCinLA on December 1, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with you Steve. While I want unemployment to be extended I don't think Repubs will nor do I think trading it for millionaire tax cuts is a good deal.

At this point, I think Democrats should put forth 1) the START treaty, 2) tax cuts for everyone for the first $250,000 in income & 3) unemployment insurance extension. If Republicans choose to shoot each of them down, and they will, let it be on their head. Make sure that is on every Democrats lips every day for the next 6 months.

Posted by: kindness on December 1, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

We are so screwed.

Posted by: bcinaz on December 1, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Let the tax cuts expire. Make unemployment benefits be filibustered. Drop the court challenge to the ruling DADT is unconstitutional and issue an executive order banning its enforcement.
None of this will be done. I am sick of belonging to a party of cowards. Democratic officials are as much to blame for the increasingly rapid decline of our constitutional democracy into an authoritarian plutocracy as are Republicans.
Why bother? My advice to the young is emigrate. My advice for the rest of us is a complete focus on private life.

Posted by: JMG on December 1, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Not a "Grand Bargain"; you don't bargain with terrorists. What it is, is Grand Guignol - a puppet horror show.

Posted by: exlibra on December 1, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Call their bluff. They absolutely, positively, MUST deliver for their base on the tax issue. Their is no way they can compromise on the tax rates without a huge firestorm from the right.

If Dems don't deal on the tax rates, they'll be mad, call us names, question our patriotism, obstruct our priorities and act like obnoxious a$$holes for the next two years. IOW, we've seen this act already.

But if they don't deliver for their corporate masters and tea party minions, it will lead to civil war in conserva-world.


Posted by: danimal on December 1, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with danimal, but biggerbox has a point. Dems can call their bluff, get nothing passed, no tax cuts, not START, no DADT repeal, no unemployment extension, then the new Congress will pass even deeper tax cuts in January and look like the hero.

Posted by: You Don't Say on December 1, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Grand Bargain, huh?

It appears that the only term open for negotiation is the relative size of pole that gets rammed up the Dems' collective asses.

I agree with those that say, "never negotiate with terrorists."


Posted by: bdop4 on December 1, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

"then the new Congress will pass even deeper tax cuts in January and look like the hero."-You Don't Say

Yes, the House will. And the Senate, still with a Dem majority for at least two more years, won't. Also, the President won't sign it. And there aren't enough votes to over ride.

Posted by: DAY on December 1, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

You Don't Say,

The House may be able to pass tax cuts, but it still has to pass the Senate (although Reid the Spineless would likely let it pass). I'm afraid Obama would likely sign such a bill out of fear.

As long as Dems refuse to go on the offensive, such a scenario is plausible.

Posted by: bdop4 on December 1, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

To DAY: Then let's call their bluff!

Posted by: You Don't Say on December 1, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

It tears me up that such a bargain needs to be made, and I don't step back an inch from my comment above, but if we see this as a demonstration of the kind of Republican scum we are up against, and if we keep organizing and working the next two years (I know, it's going to be hard to keep one's head in the game with all this), perhaps we can convince those Americans who didn't vote this last time, that it's important who they vote for in the Senate and House, and two years of Republican overreach and mendacity will show people who the real "rascals" are who have to be thrown out. Of course, it will help if the Democrats in Congress manage to learn that it's time to grow a spine and a set of big armor-plated brass ones, so there's a credible alternative.

I know, I know, "hope springs infernal."

Posted by: TCinLA on December 1, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

I will never understand why the Dems aren't beating the republicans over the head with their tax cuts to the rich and the increase in the deficit. How hard is it to say...No tax cuts to the top 2%, we just can't afford it? or How can the republicans claim to care about the deficit and needlessly add $700 billion to it? Why aren't the republicans asked how many jobs were created as a result of the bush tax cuts? The dems have turned a winning issue into a total loser. I've voted democratic most of my life, but I just hardly see any reason to at this point. They're gutless, and don't appear to stand FOR anything.

Posted by: Jilli on December 1, 2010 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Put me in the 'let the tax cuts expire' camp.

But if there is to be a 'grand bargain,' it really must include the DISCLOSE Act. We need to know who's buying our elections.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 1, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Let me get this straight: The Republicans oppose extending unemployment payments, even though it's favored by the majority of voters, because it will "expand the deficit," but they want to extend tax cuts to those who don't need them, even though it's opposed by the majority of the voters because it is blatantly unfair and blows a gaping hole in the deficit. Nevertheless the Democrats are incapable of figuring out how to use this issue to rally a majority of the voters to their side?

Shmucks! When they've handed you a hammer, bowed their heads, and dared you to hit them with it, and the vast majority of your party--and most everybody else--are lined up on the sidelines yelling, "Smash the fuckers!" you don't stand there like an idiot looking at the hammer in your hands and asking, "Shouldn't we compromise on this and hit ourselves as well, just to show how bipartisan and reasonable we are?"

Cowardice has never been an effective weapon against thugs and bullies. It's an early lesson that we all learned in kindergarten the first time the big kid tried to take away our crayons.

The Democratic Party has degenerated from FDR's "I welcome their hatred!" to Obama's "let me extend a hand." It no longer serves any useful purpose for anybody. In all honesty, it needs to dry up die.

I was vehemently opposed to Ralph Nader in 2000, but I'm beginning to believe his problem wasn't so much that he was wrong, but that he was right too early.

Posted by: Chaim Rosemarin on December 1, 2010 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Obama looks more like an irrelevant weakling every day. He needs a win or everyone will be looking for him to abandon 2012 soon. On what issue do you think he will look for a win? (where "win" means achieving some important result desired by the American people and not desired by rich Republicans or Wall St)

Posted by: ElegantFowl on December 1, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Make the Republicans vote on extending tax cuts for all income under $1 million. If they vote no, let the tax cuts expire.

Posted by: Davran on December 1, 2010 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

All this is just peachy until the Senate Republicans decide they aren't going to act on ANYTHING until the taxes issue is settled. I think the timing of that announcement just after this meeting is suspect.

Posted by: ET on December 1, 2010 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

If $4 trillion is going to be added to the deficit, then all votes on other issues like New START, the Dream Act, repeal of DADT and a 2-year continuation of unemployment benefits MUST be taken first. And it wouldn't hurt to add another major stimulus bill to the list.

It should be called the Great Republican Deficit Expansion Compromise.

Posted by: Seould on December 1, 2010 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Quid pro quo!
The governing strategy of the GOP!
What a bunch of mindless extortionists!

Republicans do need to man up and directly stand for something instead of the raw and shameless carping against things they don't like.

Tell Mr. and Mrs. Every American just how government run death panels operate (you got this one Jan Brewer).

Tell us just how many millions of jobs the Bush Tax cuts created over the past 8 years (you got this one Boehner and McConnell).

Tell us why 70% of our men and women in uniform say its ok, Bob Gates says its ok, and our Joint-Chiefs says its ok to end DADT and its still not ok (you're up John McCain).

Tell us why cockamemie ideas of states' vetos are being entertained directly challenging 200 plus years of accepted governance while the initiators of such nonsense are championing themselves as national leaders (Eric Cantor please elaborate).

From my vantage, these Republicans are not truly political leaders so much as they are front men for interests that are not so committeed to Americna democracy as they seem to be to American exceptionalism - you know, that idea that they are entitled to everything, and can then determine who will be with them, and who will be the exception! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 1, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Let the tax cuts expire. Then hold a vote only on the "tax cuts for the first $100,000 of income for all Americans" (not 1 million).

Posted by: N.Wells on December 1, 2010 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

If there's anything that should dispel any doubts about eliminating the filibuster, this should do it. A minority of 42 should not be able to dictate the agenda. When Congress reconvenes in January, Reid should declare the Senate to not be a continuing body and therefore new rules will apply. Enough is enough.

And you can bet that when Republicans regain control of the Senate, they won't put up with a Democratic minority blocking their efforts. They'll get rid of the filibuster, so Dems may as well do it first. It has the added advantage of being the right policy, too.

Posted by: dsimon on December 1, 2010 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone pointed out where Republicans, who say they are open to negotiations, have compromised on anything so far?

Just wondering.

Posted by: dsimon on December 1, 2010 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK
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