Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 4, 2011

IT'S APRIL 4, DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR BUDGET DEAL IS?.... The deadline for a budget deal is this Friday, just four days from now. If the House GOP leadership intends to stick to its own rules, and keep a bill posted for three days before a vote can be held, that means policymakers engaged in negotiations will have to have a package largely wrapped by tomorrow.

And while there remains widespread optimism that a shutdown will be averted -- optimism I do not share -- it's worth noting that as close-of-business wraps up today, the relevant players don't seem anywhere close to reaching an agreement.

Negotiations between congressional Democrats, Republicans and the White House to avoid a government shutdown took a turn for the worse Monday, as top Republicans issued coordinated statements calling Democrats' spending cut goals too low, and preemptively blaming them if the Friday deadline passes without a deal.

"Despite attempts by Democrats to lock in a number among themselves, I've made clear that their $33 billion is not enough and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors," said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). "That's unacceptable. ... If the government shuts down, it will be because Senate Democrats failed to do their job."

When Boehner throws around nonsense to avoid blame, it's generally a sign the larger process isn't going especially well.

The perpetually confused House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-Va.), said the spending-cut target leaders embraced last week are "still far too low," before blaming Democrats for the possibility of a shutdown. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) joined the fun, saying he wants "real spending reductions," unlike those Senate Dems are offering, before saying the onus is on Harry Reid to prevent a shutdown.

There's very likely plenty of push and pull underway behind the scenes, but last week, the relevant players were all "working off the same number," and the next challenge would be to find the cuts to match the target. As of this afternoon, Republicans are saying rather plainly that this number itself is no longer good enough.

In other words, with the deadline perilously close, the process appears to have gone from moving slowly to moving backwards.

For what it's worth, the Adult in Chief apparently intends to take a very hands-on role tomorrow.

With less than five days to go before a government shutdown, President Barack Obama is planning a face-to-face meeting with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Congressional leaders to discuss options, aides confirmed Monday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that Obama has invited Congressional leaders to a Tuesday meeting. "Earlier today invitations were extended to Speaker Boehner, Senate Majority Leader [Harry] Reid, [Senate Appropriations] Chairman Dan Inouye and [House Appropriations] Chairman Hal Rogers to a meeting tomorrow at the White House with the president to discuss ongoing negotiations on a funding bill to bring us through the end of this fiscal year," Carney said at a press briefing Monday.

Boehner has skipped prior invitations to meet with Obama, but aides said he plans to accept this time.

It's not unreasonable to ask why Obama hasn't been engaged at this level up until now, but the answer is, regrettably, that more presidential involvement made it less likely Republicans would negotiate in good faith.

There is, however, one potential safety valve -- with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) poised to unveil his radical budget plan for the next fiscal year, it relieves some of the pressure to make this year's spending bill everything the GOP wants it to be. Republicans can, in other words, get some of what they want now, and fight for much more in the next round.

Steve Benen 4:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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Good god. What a bunch of wankers. What's next? they're going to hold their breath until they turn blue?

Okay progressives - we know who our top targets are for 2012 - the orange man, that moron Cantor and anybody affiliated in any way with the teabaggers.

Kai thx bai.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on April 4, 2011 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

I look foward to the Public reaction to the Budget Committee Chairmans proposal.

Hopefully, after people find out about it, there'll be no 'Saving Privatizing Ryan' - or the Republican Party, either.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 4, 2011 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

In other words, the Republicans are lying through their teeth, as usual.

First, the party leaders negotiate a number that represents a real compromise on both sides, and one that gives them far more than they should expect under any normal negotiating process.

Then, when the crazy element of their own caucus balks, they pretend that they never agreed to or even considered the compromise in question and effectively accuse the Democrats about lying about any deal.

Posted by: tanstaafl on April 4, 2011 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like a cue for Obama to announce a Grand Compromise, in which the Democrats will give the Republicans an extra ten or twenty billion in cuts. And then he collects the next round of campaign donations from the banksters.

Posted by: bleh on April 4, 2011 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

At this point the number doesn't matter -- the GOP members won't consent to a deal until Planned Parenthood is completely defunded. No Democrat in the Senate will vote for draconian cuts to the safety net AND defunding of Planned Parenthood AND not a dime of increased taxes on the filthy rich who got us into this mess. Hell, the GOP women in the Senate won't agree to it.

Once again, Obama is playing a very dangerous game with the base. If he pushes for some far-right fiscal deal -- one far beyond the widest dreams of Karl Rove -- then he'll lose the support of virtually every white progressive in this country. And he needs some decent percentage of white, especially female, voters to win the election. If he caves, his support among white Dems will crater and he'll lose overwhelmingly. Tens of millions of us will stay home.

Posted by: BrklynLibrul on April 4, 2011 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Its funny. Last year, when the prospect of a government shutdown appeared on the horizon, Steve Benen repeatedly assured us that it would be a political disaster for the GOP. Somehow, it doesn't seem to have worked out that way.

My guess is that, if a shutdown occurs, the partisans on each side will blame the other side, but the low-information voters will blame the Dems. The GOP has spent considerable effort trying to create the perception that their spending cuts arise out of a highly principled desire to reign in federal spending. This isn't Newt throwing a tantrum over stale M&Ms.

Once the Dems agreed to spending cuts in principle, they lost all their leverage. I am curious to see if, during the next 4 days, the Dems can figure out a way to explain to average Americans why $30B in cuts is good for America but $60-100B is not only bad, but so bad that we need to shut down the government in opposition.

Posted by: square1 on April 4, 2011 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

There will be a government shutdown because Boehner knows that the Tea Party members of the House GOP caucus won't agree to a compromise budget in the absence of one. The GOP base is demanding a shutdown right now. Consequently, Boehner has no choice but to deliver one. The best way to predict what the GOP Congressional leadership will do is to listen to the demands of the GOP base.

Posted by: Dennis on April 4, 2011 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Shutting down government sounds so benign.

Let's call it what it is -- holding federal workers and and the American public hostage in a game of political chicken.

Posted by: beep52 on April 4, 2011 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

No shutdown. Reasons:

1. If the R's really wanted a shutdown they would have done it already. Once you cave once (and they've already caved several times by agreeing to continuing resolutions) it's all over.

2. Even if the Tea Party people really want a shutdown, they couldn't even manage more than a few dozen people for their rally last week. They've got no pull. All they are going to get going forward are symbolic scraps.

3. If the R's were going to force a shutdown, they'd be focusing entirely on preparations for the media war. Instead they are about to launch a battle over medicare. Everybody knows you don't fight a two-front war.

Posted by: shutdown skeptic on April 4, 2011 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

skeptic: I agreed with you -- until Obama got into the act with his summit meeting. I think the tide is totally against the Teatards and Boehner. But I also trust Democrats to pull defeat from the jaws of victory, and in particular I trust the Obama White House to curry favor with the financial sector by graciously agreeing to split the difference -- let's say $47 instead of $33 billion -- in exchange for some meaningless fig-leaf like "no riders" (which nobody cares about anyway). Now I'm very worried.

Posted by: bleh on April 4, 2011 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

Shutdown skeptic has some good points, but I think the shutdown is going to happen. It would be one thing if the pubbies were united and Boehner could actually control them, but this is much more an internecine gooper war than a Dem versus Rep one. So when you talk about R's wanting something, it gets complicated because some R's do and some don't.

Also, I'm thinking Obama stayed out of the negotiations because he knew that any deal short of total capitulation to the R's (which wouldn't pass the Senate) would be considered an Obama win if he's seen to be involved, and the teabaggers would never accept that. The fact he's involved now looks like he's placing himself as the sensible grownup and the teabaggers as the spoiled kids in the failure of the talks.

Posted by: ericblair on April 4, 2011 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK
the Adult in Chief

Assumes facts not in evidence...

Posted by: msmolly on April 4, 2011 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you beep52 for getting to the heart of the matter. We're talking about real honest to goodness hardworking people here. Many are living paycheck to paycheck so the furlough would push some over the edge. DC is an expensive city to live in and many government workers are underpaid compared to their private counterparts.

Posted by: HokieAnnie on April 4, 2011 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

My best guess is that Boehner is holding out to the last minute for a maximum possible deal. Then he is going to finally accept less than he demanded and go back to his caucus.

But then the tea baggers are going to sandbag him and refuse to go along.

Voila! Shutdown city!

Then Boehner will come back and demand more.

He may or may not have planned that entire sequence. He also may think he has more control of the Repubs than he actually has. Some of the most radical right-wingers are almost certainly lying to him. In any case I expect a shut down next week.

Posted by: Rick B on April 4, 2011 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

I see that tanstaafl beat me to it. We agree.

Posted by: Rick B on April 4, 2011 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

What a bunch of wankers. What's next? they're going to hold their breath until they turn blue? -- Posted by: fourlegsgood on April 4, 2011 at 4:48 PM

I wish!

Even if the Tea Party people really want a shutdown, they couldn't even manage more than a few dozen people for their rally last week. -- Posted by: shutdown skeptic on April 4, 2011 at 5:59 PM

There's a difference between the Teabaggers "at large" and those in Congress, I think. The first, as you say, have little influence at the moment. But they had done their duty and installed a bunch of ideological Yahoos in the House and those won't lose their "weight" (if they lose it at all) till Nov '12. Until then, they'll prance and posture and crap everywhere they wish, leaving Boehner with very few options. He'll either have to compromise with the Dems (because he'll need their votes) and avoid the shutdown, or he'll have to go along with the Teahadists, and risk the whole party being blamed for the resulting crisis.

I'm surprised the Teahadists aren't happy with 33 billion shakedown; it is, after all, one billion for each year of Jesus's life. Should be right up their alley...

Posted by: exlibra on April 4, 2011 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not a constitutional scholar, but even I know it's not the president's job to craft a budget. POTUS may have some input, but the House and Senate need to do the heavy lifting.

I'm not one of the ones who will suffer the most during the next two years, and I like to think I'm compassionate enough to be angry at the Dems who will use the coming debacle as a lesson to conservative voters and other boneheads.

Of course, the Dems may drop THAT ball also.

Posted by: Sarafina on April 4, 2011 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

FWIW, results of the Pew Research poll released March 28 has some disturbing results.

In the event of a shutdown, 35% of respondents would blame Obama, while 36% would blame Republicans. Independents would blame Obama more than they'd blame Republicans (37-32%).

Not only are these numbers disturbing, but they don't reconcile with surveys showing majorities do not like Republican-proposed budget cuts.

Neverthless, the numbers support Republicans pushing to the max since doing so would, at least now, carry no political penalty.

Propaganda works.

Posted by: beep52 on April 4, 2011 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

Um, my bad. Pew figures above are from late Feb. Late March numbers are here, but not much different.

Posted by: beep52 on April 4, 2011 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

By going to 33 Billion the Democrats have positioned themselves very well in the event of a shutdown. They have gone more than 1/2 way. Independents don't expect them to do more than that.

I heard tonight that Boehner's office is preparing another short CR to let the negotiations continue.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 4, 2011 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, Paul Ryan is about to take all the air out of the room. The Republicans are about to make the worst political mistake in a generation.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 4, 2011 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

If Congress shuts down the govt, I certainly hope none of the Cons gets any salary, reimbursement for expenses or travel, salary for their staff, parking and stamps allowance, etc etc etc. Oh yeah, and no healthcare for the duration! Let them eat cake too. In fact, a great way additional budget cut would be to reduce their salary, benefits, retirement pkg, etc as part of any new budget cuts. About half of them are multi-millionaires anyway. they don't need no stinkin' gob'mt $.

Posted by: PEA on April 4, 2011 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

PS. and please, for a change, could the WH remind the public how shutting down the govt will COST US ALL A LOT MORE (i.e. they are hypocrites - something the precious Indies might actually care about) instead of offering to bend over farther?!

Posted by: pea on April 4, 2011 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

At this point in 95, Clinton had prepped the battlefield like Hannibal at Cannae. Before the shutdown even began, the American public had been convinced that the Repubs were out to gut Medicare, education, the environment and health. Where is Obama? I've heard nary a peep out of him while the Republicans have run wild, trying to convince the public that deficits and spending are the same and that public sector workers are all overpaid, lazy slobs who deserve to be furloughed or fired. Perhaps Obama's "long game" will work out--maybe this is some sort of rope-a-dope move--but I much prefer Clinton's frontal assault tactics up to now.

Posted by: themistocles2012 on April 4, 2011 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

If the House GOP leadership intends to stick to its own rules . . .

Hah hah hah hah!!!! Ho ho! Hee hee!

Good one, Steve!

Posted by: Jon on April 5, 2011 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

Date: July 23, 2012. 11:34 am

Boehner and the House again tried to come to terms with a CR for he next 3 and a half minutes....

Posted by: bignose on April 5, 2011 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK
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