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Sidney Lumet, Dead at 86 | Main | Game of Thrones Preview
April 09, 2011

A Good First Step; FY2012, Here We Come

I got up this morning afternoon with a plan to write about the budget deal and how Speaker Boehner made the Democrats eat pavement. Happily, Carl Cameron already wrote that piece:

Over the next decade the cuts are expected to save hundreds of billions of dollars.

The deal mandates a host of studies and audits of Obama administration policies. It also blocks additional funds for the IRS sought by the Obama administration and bans federal funding of abortion in Washington, D.C.

The history of offers on this bill goes something like this. Democrats first offered no cuts, then $4 billion, then $6.5 billion, then $33 billion, then settled at $38.5 billion.

Boehner made numerous adjustments to his offer in recent days too, but started at $32 billion, then with a Tea Party push went to $62 billion, then dropped to $40 billion, then $38.5 billion.

Democrats claimed they met Republicans halfway after the $10 billion in cuts that already passed this year were approved. They settled late Friday night at three and a half times more.

Read the whole thing.

A bit about tactics:

Harry Reid's plan here was idiotic. He does the same thing he always does, which is rant about how extreme the Republicans were being. This is a fine tactic in an election (and we do the same thing to "radical" Democrats), but this wasn't an election. It was a negotiation. Reid was trying to make the Republicans look unreasonable to induce them to change positions without having to make a meaningful concession himself.

When two parties negotiate, it's never as simple as looking at each party's offer, finding the average, and calling it a deal. First, a party's offer isn't necessarily (or even often) that party's genuine goal. You make an offer to get the other party to react. Sometimes they'll creep a bit toward you, making a concession in order to then get a concession out of you. At the end of the day you hope that your concessions are worth more than theirs.

That's not the only way to get a concession, trading offer for offer. You can also induce the other side to change position by showing that they are being unreasonable. That was Reid's primary tactic. Only, there's nothing at all unreasonable about the Republican desire for budget cuts.

So Reid also tried to induce the Republicans to change position by claiming that the real GOP goal was a government shutdown. Fortunately, that also failed to get traction because Boehner and the Republicans were so obviously trying to avoid it. (Note, this Reid tactic would have worked if Boehner had followed the advice of a few conservatives that the best thing to do would be to not negotiate at all.)

So Reid was left with the policy riders, especially the defunding of Planned Parenthood. On that one issue Reid got some traction, but only very late in the negotiations. But note, even there he failed to preserve his position. Originally, Reid said that he would never allow a floor vote on Planned Parenthood funding. Never. It was entirely off limits. But there's a funny thing about saying "never" when you're talking about public consideration of how to spend millions of dollars. Reid's "never" looked pretty damn unreasonable.

And now, because of Boehner's oh-so-reasonable demeanor, there will be a floor vote on corporate welfare for Planned Parenthood. To go along with larger budget cuts than the ones that Reid called "extreme" and "draconian" just a month ago.

Not bad, Speaker.

And on Obama's tactics:

Oh, and the President was also a terrible negotiator for Democrats. He kept applauding the Republican plans. Boehner got billions in budget cuts in each of the last two CRs. Each time, Obama went on television and praised them! Meanwhile, Reid is standing there trying to portray each successive budget cut as "extreme." It happened over and over.

And it'll continue. The White House is already praising the budget deal. You know, the one that cuts four times as much spending as the one that Reid called "draconian."

The best salesman for future budget cuts has been, ironically, the President himself.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 01:33 PM

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