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July 25, 2011 3:00 PM Understanding the nature of a compromise

By Steve Benen

I’ve received quite a bit of interesting feedback in response this morning’s post about Republicans refusing to take “yes” for an answer, and there’s one concern in particular I want to tackle.

To briefly summarize, I noted that Republicans created this debt-ceiling crisis, and Democrats have offered plenty of proposals to clean up the mess. So far, literally every offer — a clean bill, a $2.4 trillion debt-reduction package, the “Grand Bargain,” the Gang of Six blueprint, the McConnell/Reid “Plan B” deal — has been rejected by House Republicans as insufficiently right-wing.

Conservatives didn’t especially care for my observation. None of the feedback is appropriate for publication, so I’ll just summarize in my own words the typical response I received from the right:

Oh yeah? Well, Republicans offered their own plan — Cut, Cap, and Balance — and Democrats rejected the GOP’s offer. This just proves that Democrats are at least as inflexible and obstructionist as Republicans. Why can Democrats reject GOP offers without criticism, but Republicans are the bad guys if they reject Democratic offers?”

Let’s take a moment to explain the nature of a compromise.

Democrats, in general, wanted Congress to do what it’s done 89 times in the last 72 years: simply raise the debt ceiling in a clean bill. Republicans refused. Dems then proceeded to come up with a series of alternative plans that, they hoped, might make GOP officials happy. Each plan has included massive spending cuts; some plans have included entitlement cuts; and every plan has tried to achieve “balance” by featuring far more cuts than revenue. To date, none of the offers have been deemed good enough.

It’s true that Republicans presented their own idea — the Cut, Cap, and Balance measure — but no sane person could perceive it as a credible way to strike a bipartisan compromise. We’re talking about a plan that would immediately take $100 billion out of the U.S. economy, eliminating thousands of jobs in the process, en route to trillions more in additional cuts. It would make draconian cuts to key public priorities, including education, infrastructure, and energy. It would gut Social Security and Medicare, and make it almost impossible for any Congress to ever raise taxes on anyone ever again. It goes out of its way to protect tax cuts for the very wealthy, while targeting the most vulnerable. It doesn’t even do an effective job of reducing the deficit, its ostensible point.

This wasn’t an attempt on the part of conservative Republicans to make Dems happy; it was an attempt on the part of conservative Republicans to make themselves happy. There is, in other words, no comparison between Democratic offers to meet the GOP more than half-way, and a Republican offer to give themselves everything they want.

So, yes, while Dems rejected CC&B as transparent nonsense, this doesn’t mean “both sides” are rejecting compromise offers. At this point, only one side has tried to make concessions and present good-faith deals, and I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the Republican Party.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • slappy magoo on July 25, 2011 3:04 PM:

    You asked me to stop breaking your leg, I said fine, I'll break your arm, and then you cried about that, TOO! You just refuse to compromise!

  • LoveHate on July 25, 2011 3:07 PM:

    Republicans are more than willing to compromise. Don't be fooled. Their top priority is compromise. They want to compromise Obama's presidency and chances for re-election, and if they compromise the country's security and future in the process, "So be it!"

  • stormskies on July 25, 2011 3:12 PM:

    One more time. Repiglicans create and live in a utterly fact free universe. They make up their own 'fact's' in order to reinforce the totality of their delusional reality. They are in fact completely psychologically dependent on their delusional reality which is why they make up the 'fact's' to sustain it. To even admit just one fact that destroys their delusional reality means that they are wrong. And, of course, they can not be wrong. So here we are. The fucking, crazy, insane delusional stooges of Lucifer that have been elected in our recent election creating the insane reality that we are now all forced to live. In the end the blame lies within American itself. They elected this utterly delusional and insane stooges of Lucifer.

  • Typical Liberal Purist Assholet on July 25, 2011 3:12 PM:

    Boy I am so glad all the liberal purist assholes stayed home in Nov 2010 so they could teach Obama and the Democrats a lesson. It's working out so well, isn't it?

  • MikeBoyScout on July 25, 2011 3:17 PM:

    Saw this over at CNN discussing Speaker Boehner's latest:

    "But with House Democrats unlikely to give the new Boehner plan much support since it doesn't raise the debt ceiling through the end of 2012, these GOP sources declined to say whether Boehner could muster the votes to pass the plan with just Republicans."

    Of course there are not enough Republican votes for Boehner's latest. There never has been a Debt Ceiling bill where Boehner could muster the votes, and there will not be.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 25, 2011 3:17 PM:

    Nicely put, Mr. Benen

  • SYSPROG on July 25, 2011 3:18 PM:

    TWO things. We don't have to 'offer' a damn thing. After all, it wasn't US that had an unfunded mandate with Medicare Part D, two wars, drunken sailors, etc. I'm sick of their crap. And CCB? Just another flippin' excuse NOT to do their job. I say if we default the first thing that goes is their SALARIES and HEALTH CARE.

  • Alan on July 25, 2011 3:19 PM:

    Even more importantly, the Republicans already voted in favor of the budgets that included the huge deficits. Having already voted for them, it is their responsibility to ensure the budgets can be paid for, either through taxes or deferred taxes (debt).

  • Stephen on July 25, 2011 3:20 PM:

    Only one side has actually tried to pass debt ceiling legislation. For some reason, Democratic leaders in the Senate don't seem anxious to actually have a vote on any of their proposals.

  • MobiusKlein on July 25, 2011 3:22 PM:

    I'll go one farther.

    If the Republicans have the House majority, 60 votes in the Senate, and the Presidency, they won't have to compromise.
    They don't, so they have to compromise.

  • slappy magoo on July 25, 2011 3:22 PM:

    @Stephen, please tell me you're not talking about Cut, Cap and Balance. Promise me you're not That Guy.

  • Josef K on July 25, 2011 3:23 PM:

    You know, there's a weekly feature at Daily Kos called "Saturday Hate Mail", wherein Kos shares a half-dozen of the dooziest emails he gets during the week. Perhaps Steve should consider something similar for the weekend?

    Cetainly whatever 'comments' he received have got to give a better laugh than the current stupidity in Congress.

  • kc on July 25, 2011 3:23 PM:

    I admire your ability to remain civil in the face of such idiocy.

  • zandru on July 25, 2011 3:23 PM:

    "Just another flippin' excuse NOT to do their job"

    You've got it, SYSPROG. And this morning, the big news on NPR was that the Boner and his Tea Baggers had come up with a proposal where a "12 member committee" would decide which cuts would be made each year.

    They can't do their jobs. They don't want to do their jobs. They won't take the responsibility - or heat - from doing their jobs.

    The Tea Baggin' Republican members of Congress are just like their tea baggin' base - they whine and shout a lot, aren't interested in facts, and want someone else to do the hard work for them.

  • dalloway on July 25, 2011 3:24 PM:

    They're sociopaths, pure and simple: nobody matters except them. The welfare of others is completely irrelevant. All that matters is the best outcome for them. Annihilating the world economy is fine if it helps achieve a permanent Republican majority. And in Norway, slaughtering children is fine, if it will bring about a more conservative Christian world. Some folks in the 1930s thought eliminating Jews would enable Germans to rule the world for a thousand years. Get the picture?

  • Steve LaBonne on July 25, 2011 3:24 PM:

    Boy I am so glad all the liberal purist assholes stayed home in Nov 2010 so they could teach Obama and the Democrats a lesson. It's working out so well, isn't it?

    Since that in fact is NOT who stayed home in 2010 (as the Obama White House understands quite well), you're as reality-challenged (or truth-challenged) as any teabagger.

  • nemisten on July 25, 2011 3:24 PM:

    Here's my suggestion for a Democratic baseline response to the GOP CC&B:

    1. Begin immediate troop withdrawl from Iraq & Afghanistan
    2. Cut 30% from the War Dept now; 40% in 5 years; 50% in 10 years.
    3. Immediately roll back all the Bush tax cuts.
    4. Immediately fully fund the ACA.

    There, Conservatives. Now let's begin negotiating.

  • Bartender on July 25, 2011 3:25 PM:

    Right wingers REALLY need to wean themselves away from Rush and FOX "News" long enough to research the historical (and I don't mean "history" via Texas school books) underpinnings of how our federal government, through the art of compromise, basically gets things done. It might shed some light in breaking up the stalement we're currently dealing with in Washington - or not.

  • Perspecticus on July 25, 2011 3:25 PM:

    I am certain that saying "Shut your face, that's why!" would have had a far greater effect on your conservative readers than any attempt to explain something to them.

  • ack ack ack on July 25, 2011 3:25 PM:

    CCP would be as bad as defaulting on our national debt. It's clear what Republicans want to do to this country,

  • walt on July 25, 2011 3:26 PM:

    You can't shame these zealots because they have already reduced reality to a cartoon. They're godly, Democrats are bad, and Obama is evil. It's no accident that the Republican Party is home to fundamentalists, whether it's the religious, market, or cultural variety. Their war is between light and darkness, and good and evil. These people are functional children who reject complexity and ambiguity because they interfere with their righteousness trip.

    Thanks again, news media, for mainstreaming these crackheads.

  • bleh on July 25, 2011 3:27 PM:

    Right. The other part about compromise is that -- as Obama pointed out -- each side has to give up some of what it wants and give the other side some of what they want. The Democrats have been willing to do this -- to a fault IMHO -- and the Republicans haven't. That CCB is a "plan to raise the debt ceiling" is technically true, but it's entirely on the Republicans' terms. The Democrats could offer an equally one-sided one, but they are mature enough to know that would be a waste of everyone's time.

    Compromise is something mature people do. Republicans are behaving like 5-year-olds throwing a tantrum, thinking that to get their way all they have to do is scream louder.

    Sadly, the media are so invested in "both sides do it" (probably because their jobs depend on it) that they are making this clear only grudgingly, if at all.

  • Disgusted on July 25, 2011 3:30 PM:

    I am not voting for any traitor

  • Rick Taylor on July 25, 2011 3:30 PM:

    But Kevin, you don't understand what a huge sacrifice it is for Republicans to vote to increase the debt limit, as they did repeatedly during the previous administration. Why it goes against their core values to increase the debt limit for a Democratic President; it's literally an existential crises for them. So the least Democrats could do in return is to make some similar sacrifice, like gutting the New Deal.

  • Josef K on July 25, 2011 3:37 PM:

    From Stephen @ 3:20:

    Only one side has actually tried to pass debt ceiling legislation. For some reason, Democratic leaders in the Senate don't seem anxious to actually have a vote on any of their proposals.

    That's likely because (a) they aren't finished writing it yet, (b) they know there's no time to waste on crap legislation like CCB, and therefore (c) Senator Reid is unlikely to bring anything to the floor that won't pass.

    And you're being too generous saying the Republicans "tried to pass debt ceiling legislation". They haven't passed anything that will actually address the fundamental problem, and what they have voted on will only worsen the national economy.

  • Zorro on July 25, 2011 3:45 PM:

    Shorter GOP

    1) Cut, Cap, + Balance
    2) ?
    3) PROFIT (for our rich benefactors)

    -Z

  • SYSPROG on July 25, 2011 3:52 PM:

    Oh and @Stephen? You're a moron if you think that there IS such a thing as 'debt ceiling legislation'. Up until THIS Congress it was one LINE in a bigger budget bill and the GOP tripped over themselves voting FOR it. Harry Reid is not going to insult the public with stupid votes that go nowhere. HE can't just put meaningless legislation out there...he waits for the House to play their games and then decides if it's worth it or not. It's only worth it when you want to show that some Republican SENATORS are as stupid as the 'baggers. Most times you try to at least have the ILLUSION of congeniality in the Senate.

  • Jim Keating on July 25, 2011 5:55 PM:

    It sure doesn’t ! Conservatives say where is the president’s plan. your don’t negotiate by presenting his plan. If he did that they would say he is offering us an ultimatum; therefore what ever the president does he looses. They criticize Obama. “saying he is not sincere because he won’t vote for their plan”. How could you vote for something you are totally opposed to? Give them a dictionary and let them
    read the definition of compromise , they are issuing an ultimatum, “it’s our way or the highway”. I think the
    president should just unilaterally raise the debt limit, he needs a Lincoln moment.

  • Your Momma on July 26, 2011 12:46 AM:

    House Republicans can't vote for any tax increase because they'll get nailed in their primary races by Tea Bagging activists. Obama is trying to bait them into a trap. "We'll give you everything you want if you vote for a tiny tax increase."

  • Binky the cranky bear on July 26, 2011 3:19 AM:

    The GOP want to break Obama. Think of the scene in Roots where they try to get Kunta Kinte to admit to his new name Toby. That is the wet dream of a substantial chunk of the GOP base.

  • Bucky on July 26, 2011 12:28 PM:

    The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. - Obama

  • Bucky on July 26, 2011 12:32 PM:

    Do you D-baggers mean "compromise" as in "compromise" as defined by passage of the so-called Health Care legislation or any other legislation passed by Congress from the time that Obama was elected up to the 2010 elections?

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