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October 14, 2013

Don't Forget...The Democrats Have Some Demands And Are "Taking Hostages"

Naturally the media narrative is that only the GOP has any demands in the shutdown/debt ceiling fight but that's far from the truth.

The supposed deal that Republican Senators were tossing around this weekend was killed mainly because it kept the current sequester levels of spending in place.

There are a lot of things you can say about Ezra Klein (like his stunning lack of self-awareness) but at least he's honest: Democrats don't want a six month CR because that means they won't have the chance to bump up spending.

Agreeing to it for six weeks, however, means there's an opportunity to revisit it in a month-and-a-half. Democrats hope the Republican leadership will, by that time, be so terrified of another shutdown that they'll be eager to cut some kind of deal.

And if they're not? Senate Democrats admit they're not going to shut down the government over sequestration. But maybe the Tea Party will force another government shutdown, further wounding Republicans in 2014. Or maybe there'll be another short-term CR, which will mean another chance to revisit sequestration a few weeks later.

As Democrats see it, with sequestration in place, spending isn't going any lower. So they may as well set up as many opportunities as possible to push it higher.
This strategy puts the Democrats in the awkward position of explaining why they'll accept a six-week CR but not a six-month CR. Refusing to reopen the government because the Republicans want to keep it open for too long is a hard argument to make.

If fairness, shutdown opponents like Gabe said this would happen. I give him and them partial credit. Yes, they correctly predicted that Reid and Senate Democrats would do this but they overstated the difference it makes.

The GOP can always pass a clean CR at sequestration levels. Yes, it would be a defeat from the battle but when you engage in a fight, you risk losing it. That can't be an excuse to never engage in a fight or only fight when you everything is perfect and you know you'll win (because that never happens in the real world).

What do I think the GOP should do?

First, pass a clean debt ceiling hike. The reason I opposed the debt/delay tactic is because I always thought defaulting was an empty threat. Since the GOP isn't going to push the country into "default", get it off the table and move back to the shutdown fight.

Yes, I know it's not technically default if the country makes its bond payments but that's not how it will play. More to the point, one reason the shutdown hasn't been that big of a deal (contra one lousy and meaningless NBC poll) is that A-The government isn't really "shutdown" and B-It turns out that life goes on if parts of the government are closed for awhile.

If you push to "default" people won't get their Social Security checks or other "entitlement" payments. Yes, Obama could prioritize those payments but given what we've seen in "Make it Hurt" Shutdown Theater , you know he won't. That means the GOP will cave in 2 minutes, 8 seconds. Just get it over with and move back to the shutdown and ObamaCare.

And when the fight goes back to the shutdown, fight it the right way this time...make it about ObamaCare and not who is willing to pass more bills to patch some holes.

If the Democrats want to push default or keep the shutdown going to get more spending, well, the GOP should welcome that fight.

Sometimes you get into a battle and your first plan doesn't work. That doesn't mean give up, it means change the dynamic, change your tactics.

As I said in the podcast, it's unrealistic to expect Boehner to prosecute the shutdown fight very well because he was against it. Maybe if he gets a second chance, he can do it right this time. Or...not.

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posted by DrewM. at 12:10 PM

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