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October 13, 2013 11:10 AM Democrats Feeling Their Oats

By Martin Longman

Sam Stein reports in the Huffington Post that the Democrats are now moving on to the offensive as the Republicans’ leverage has all but vaporized.

Under the Budget Control Act, annual spending will be reduced to $967 billion around Jan. 15, regardless of the budget at the time. Democrats want to avoid that. They’ve concluded that it would be a misstep to put off a motivating moment (such as a budget deal ending) for those negotiations for six months, or to go on record supporting a six-month, $988 billion budget.
“[Waiting] would dis-incentivize the negotiation. It would put Democrats on a weaker ground,” said a top Senate Democratic aide. “If, in the next few days, we break the will of [Speaker] Boehner and Senate Republicans, and we pass both a clean CR and debt limit increase, I think that there is a belief within the Senate Democratic caucus that there is absolutely no way that they would have any leverage to make major demands in future negotiations about this, that we would be in a better position.”

Republican senators want to end the shutdown, but I doubt that they can capitulate to the degree that this Democratic aide would like. Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, appearing on this morning’s Meet the Press, made clear that the Republicans will fold on the debt ceiling, even if it is only a short-term extension. There’s simply no way that the Republicans can allow a default. But they can hold out a little longer on the government shutdown, and I expect that they will if they aren’t offered anything tangible. The reason is exactly as the Democratic aide describes; if their will is completely broken, they will be in a very weak position on the budget.

Regardless, the Democrats have always seen that as a two-step process. First, break the Republicans of their habit of hostage-taking. Second, have a major battle on sequestration. They seem to be holding firm on that, and maybe even getting a little more aggressive a little earlier than I expected.

Martin Longman is the Web Editor for the Washington Monthly and main blogger at Booman Tribune. He has worked as community organizer for ACORN/Project Vote and as a political consultant for Democracy for America.

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