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When Failure's a Win, You Can't Lose

April 6, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

No matter where you stand on the government spending issue, you’ve got to be impressed by the Republicans’ tenacity in the negotiations. They only control one chamber of Congress, but they’ve already secured the support of Senate Democrats and the Obama White House for $33 billion in cuts, which is more than the amount their leader, Rep. John Boehner [R, OH-8], had originally proposed. Now, with support for that level secured and a few days remaining before a shutdown, they’ve moved their target further, demanding something more like $40 billion in cuts or no deal. As National Journal reports, the Democrats are now close to accepting the new target:

Negotiators working on six-month funding measure to avert a government shutdown on Saturday morning are reporting progress from talks on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, according to people close to the negotiations. The movement appears to the result of willingness by Democrats to entertain total cuts approaching the $40 billion target floated by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Tuesday.

A Republican familiar with talks said negotiators are also nearing a compromise on the issue of policy riders and the breakdown of cuts in mandatory and discretionary spending in the bill. Republicans want to maintain $33 billion in cuts to discretionary spending in order to lower that baseline spending level moving forward. Appropriators on both sides of the aisle suggest that they will be ready to cut a deal once they receive a topline number of total cuts under which to work and guidance on what spending limitations to include. 

House Republicans have pushed for inclusion of at least a few spending limitations, or riders, the House approved in February. Those include measures to block parts of the health care reform law; a provision to strip funding for Planned Parenthood; and another that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from spending money to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.

If the shutdown wasn’t scheduled for Saturday, I’m sure this could keep going until the Democrats caved all the way to the Tea Party’s $61 billion. The fact is, for the Republicans, the only undesirable outcome would be meeting the Democrats in the middle. A shutdown is acceptable, as are the sharp cuts they’ve proposed (and the Senate rejected). As Ezra Klein noted this morning, the Republican Caucus is applauding their leadership for steering them towards a shutdown. WaPO: “House Republicans huddled late Monday and, according to a GOP aide, gave the speaker an ovation when he informed them that he was advising the House Administration Committee to begin preparing for a possible shutdown.” Watching this whole thing play out it’s becoming clear that ideologically-driven activists have influence in Congress on the right, but not on the left. If there’s a progressive movement, it’s not being felt in the federal legislative process.  

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