Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

A new grand bargain

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Very thoughtful column in the Washington Post by John Huder and Thomas Mann:

A grand bargain is absolutely necessary, but not to negotiate temporary terms to reopen the federal government or raise the nation’s debt ceiling. We need a grand bargain for democracy.

We need President Obama and Congress to agree to take off the table the partisan war’s new weapons of mass destruction – government shutdowns, threats of public default and sequesters. Hostage-taking to gain unilateral concessions not achievable through ordinary bargaining and putting in place automatic, indiscriminate spending cuts in the absence of budget agreements diminish our democracy and imperil our economy. The world looks with bewilderment and fear at the ability and willingness of a minority to thwart majority rule to achieve its ideological objectives whatever the costs. Our problems of deficits and debt pale compared with the damage being done to our democracy, our capacity to govern and our standing in the world.Calling the current Washington machinations “hostage-taking,” “extortion” or “political terrorism” incites the Republicans. They claim the rhetoric is out of bounds and inflammatory. In the passion to defend their actions, Republicans have failed to consider what their own reaction would be if the shoe were on the other foot. Imagine a hypothetical on health care (similar to one that our colleague, Ben Wittes, recently offered on Lawfare Blog):

It’s 2007. Democrats have just taken control of Congress, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi is speaker of the House. President George W. Bush requests a debt ceiling increase from Capitol Hill. Seeing an opening, Pelosi makes a specific demand: “Under no circumstances will the debt ceiling be lifted unless Congress passes and the president signs a bill providing universal health coverage to Americans, a ban on preexisting conditions and an individual mandate to purchase insurance to avoid the  adverse selection problem.” She draws a line in the sand and argues that the number of uninsured people presents an economic, political, social and public health threat to the nation that is far greater than the government defaulting on its debt. She even questions whether a default is real.

If you are a Republican, ask yourself how you would react to Pelosi’s threat. Would you think, “Good for her, she’s a tough negotiator”? Would you concede, “That’s part of bargaining, and the president needs to relent”? No. Her behavior would be slammed. She would be accused of hostage-taking or political terrorism. And that criticism would be deserved.

But Pelosi — despite having serious reservations about the path of public policy under Bush — never made a serious, dire or credible threat to the nation’s full faith and credit to bargain for unrelated legislation. Why? That specific threat of bullying legislation jeopardizes the fundamentals of American democracy and the functioning of a market system.

Too often, political opponents fail to consider what would happen if they were placed in the other party’s position. We guarantee, if Democratic congressional leaders were behaving in the same way as their Republican counterparts are right now, the GOP rhetoric would not be tame or conciliatory.

What is the path forward? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 October 2013 at 11:49 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

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