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March 16, 2011

Both Republicans and Democrats Now Spoiling for a Shutdown Fight?

Via Hot Air, former Foxer Major Garrett reports:

House Republicans have been winning the dollar debate but are dissatisfied with piecemeal victories. Senate Democrats have been retreating in billion-dollar increments and now want to battle over the big picture. The collision and a spring federal government shutdown—possibly lasting weeks—appear more likely than ever.


Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., said he has only begun the fight to defund health care and attack funding for the White House’s environmental agenda. “If you think I am done, you are mistaken,” Woodall said. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., again declared now was the time “to pick a fight” as even House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., lamented that short-term spending bills constituted a “terrible way to do business.”


Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said Republicans can and will pass the full amount of cuts originally sought, which is now $51 billion from current, fiscal 2010 spending levels the government is operating on. “We can pass that,” Simpson said, referring to the tattered budget process inherited from the last Congress as “a pile of crap.”

I don't mind a little spoiling for a fight (a shutdown). It's always useful to have part of the caucus threatening mutiny, even just from a negotiating standpoint. Anything that forces the Overton Window to the right is good.

The only thing is -- what got us in trouble last time, as I understand it, is that the House Republicans seemed eager for a shutdown, and the independents, being people who don't like clear, binary choices put starkly to them, got mad that they were being asked to participate in their own democracy.

Until now, the GOP has been fairly successful in conveying that it's the Democrats who are really pushing for a shutdown, because the Democrats can't help but keep offering quotes to the media about how much they'll profit politically from a shutdown.

We should continue playing the we-don't-really-want-to-shut-the-government-down game. But, if it comes to that, then it comes to that. Saving us billions a week. Oops.

Also at Hot Air, professional smart-guy Keith Hennessey says the death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy is a winning one. And if you want more, just start digging the knife in a little more deeply each time. But don't abandon a strategy that is, so far, producing tangible results.

Instead of threatening to oppose the next CR no matter what, impatient fiscal conservatives should demand that their party leaders ratchet up the the spending cuts in the next CR. Spending cuttters, pull the Republican team in your direction. Demand $3B of spending cuts per week rather than $2B. If policy-specific funding limitations are a priority, choose one funding limitation and insist that it be included in the next CR. (I’d choose the EPA regs, which tend to unify Republicans and split Democrats.) Use House Republican control of the legislative text to put the President and Leader Reid in the position where they have to choose between a little more savings and shutting down the government. It’s hard for them to explain why $2B of savings per week is OK, but $3B per week is the end of the world. Use that to your advantage.

For decades those who favor bigger government have succeeded incrementally, by patiently layering one new program on top of another, and by pocketing incremental spending increases that build up over time. Over the next six months spending cutters are now perfectly positioned to do this in reverse.

I don't know if he's completely right, because until now, we have basically cut what Obama had proposed cutting anyway. This $10 billion in cuts was chosen specifically because Obama or the Democrats had proposed them in the past and would not be able to easily say no to their own meager cutting proposals.

From this point on, we dig into the stuff Democrats have on their no-go list.

The current strategy will probably not work for long -- the Democrats will dig in at some point.

Taxpayer-Subsidized Cowboy Poetry Slams are of course a central pillar of this nation. No Democrat can stand by and let such critical American institutions be assaulted by not having a meaningless $50,000 per year thrown at them.

That said, I think it puts us in a better position if we have a $3 billion in cuts CR on the table and the Democrats elect to shut down the government over that.

I think there will be a shutdown. I don't think we have to hope for it or try to speed it on its way; I believe it is inevitable and necessary. As Wyatt Earp says in the underrated Costner/Kasdan biopic, when asked if there's going to be a fight at the OK Corral: "I think there must be."

But it will help in the resulting murder trial* if it appears that the Earps were forced to draw on the Clantons.

* Yeah there was one. Or an inquest, at least. Some legal proceeding. Was in the movie and everything.

Washington Examiner: Let's Beat The Rope-A-Dope By Walking Right Into The Trap The Rope-A-Dope Poses: I don't think the Washington Examiner really understands the rope-a-dope.

The whole point of Ali's famous gambit was to frustrate an opponent by going into a defensive crouch, making him impatient and begin expending useless energy on trying to beat the hard-to-punch-through rope-a-dope, exhausting himself. So when Ali came out of the crouch (when he chose to), he'd be facing a winded opponent, and could knock him out.

How do you beat that? Well, you don't fall for the trap of whaling on someone in a defensive crouch. When the opponent picks a strategy of patience and frustration, you match it with your own patience and frustration-making.

To beat the rope-a-dope in boxing, you don't go berserk. That's what the strategy counts on. Instead, you play along, take what the opponent gives you, keep your punch count higher than your opponent's (that's not hard, since he's on defense) so you win the round on pure technical bias towards the aggressive fighter. Even when you don't actually land a blow, you win just by taking what you're given.

Similarly, here, we should take every billion the Democrats are willing to cede to us in their rope-a-dope crouch. Bank it. Put it on the scoreboard. Get those points.

And then strike when we decide we have the advantage. Not when your opponents have the advantage.

At the end of the day, if we pass, say, four CR's (I doubt we'd be so lucky), we'd have already banked some $12-16 billion in cuts, making the next round of cuts less difficult to get. If we're shooting for $61 billion (a low sum, I know, but that is where the party is), well, it's easier if we've already got $16 billion in cuts banked and are now pressing for $45 billion.

The Democrats are in the rope-a-dope. So's President Passive Prissypants. Fine. Just keep hitting them. Take what they give you. Make them go berserk in frustration.

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posted by Ace at 04:25 PM

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