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How Small Differences Could Lead To A Government Shutdown

We’re hours away from a shutdown, yet there’s still no deal. The negotiations have become slightly reminiscent of Max Baucus’s Gang of Six: a group of people in a room who desperately want to agree on something but can’t figure out how to get the people outside the room to sign off on it. You can tell that Reid and Boehner want to come to an agreement. But having taken Democrats past the Republican leadership’s opening offer of $32 billion in cuts, Boehner can’t take them much further. But so far as the Tea Party is concerned, Boehner still has not taken them far enough.

Boehner and Reid say they’ve “narrowed the issues.” That means they’re very close on total spending cuts (somewhere around $35 billion) and very clear on what’s left to negotiate. The problem, however, is that as small as a policy rider over federal funding for Planned Parenthood might be, the distance between the two parties on the underlying issue is great. Democrats were appalled yesterday when Republicans made a one-week stopgap contingent on a rider barring Washington, DC from using its own money to fund abortion for low-income women (so much for home rule). The stop gap went nowhere, even though the issue of how DC can use its own funds is, in the national context, small.

And the problem isn’t just the policy. What the two parties are trying to prove about themselves, and about their relationship going forward, is very big. John Boehner is trying to convince Republicans in the House and Republicans in the country that they can trust him, that he’s conservative enough and steely enough to represent their interests in negotiations with the Democrats. And Democrats are trying to show that they will not be rolled over in negotiations simply because the Tea Party is unwilling to compromise, that they still control the Senate and the White House and they plan to act like it. These negotiations are really about the next negotiations, and the negotiations after that. Both parties worry that if they compromise now, they only embolden the other side later. And later is when the stakes get really high.

For that reason, more than a few observers and participants have suggested to me that perhaps a shutdown tonight would be healthy. Better, they say, that Democrats and Republicans test what happens if they refuse to compromise now, when the consequences can be contained, than later, when the fight will be over the debt ceiling and the consequences could be catastrophic. That they may be right is a depressing commentary on the forces buffeting our political system right now, and the very real, very large risks they pose to the country.

By Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, April 8, 2011

April 8, 2011 - Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Democrats, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Lawmakers, Planned Parenthood, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , ,

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