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19 Times Democrats Tried to Negotiate With Republicans 19 Times Democrats Tried to Negotiate With Republicans 19 Times Democrats Tried to Negotiate With Republicans 19 Times Democrats Tried ...

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Congress

19 Times Democrats Tried to Negotiate With Republicans

The GOP's biggest talking point of the shutdown is only true if you ignore everything that happened before last week.

Republicans have blocked almost 20 attempts to hold bicameral budget negotiations since April.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

To hear almost any Republican lawmaker speak in post-shutdown Washington is to hear that Democrats are refusing to negotiate to reopen the government and avert a debt default. It's a talking point that may be selling well, but it's only true if you ignore anything that happened before last Monday at about 11 p.m.

Republicans think they've hit talking-point gold with the message, as we learned from a candid "hot mic" moment last week when Sen. Rand Paul privately told fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell that he didn't think Democrats had "poll-tested" the "awful" message. " 'It's my way or the highway.' That's what he's saying. Complete surrender, and then we'll talk to you," House Speaker John Boehner told ABC News on Sunday.

In a sense, Republicans are right. Democrats view keeping the government open and out of default as Congress's most basic job, and the characterize anything that threatens that as "ransom," so they say they're not willing to come to the table until the government reopens. But, in context, the GOP's biggest talking point of the shutdown falls apart when you consider that Democrats only started refusing to negotiate after Republicans stopped, the hour before the government shut down a week ago.

 

For instance, through a Senate Democratic aide, here are all the times since this spring Senate Democrats tried to negotiate with Republicans by sending their budget to a bicameral conference committee. Every time, Republicans blocked the move:

1. 4/23 Senator Reid requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Toomey blocked.

2. 5/6 Senator Reid requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Cruz blocked.

3. 5/7 Senator Murray requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator McConnell blocked.

4. 5/8 Senator Warner asked unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator McConnell blocked.

5. 5/9 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator McConnell blocked.

6. 5/14 Senator Warner asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator McConnell blocked.

7. 5/15 Senator Wyden asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator McConnell blocked.

8. 5/16 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Lee blocked.

9. 5/21 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Paul blocked.

10. 5/22 Senator Kaine asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Rubio blocked.

11. 5/23 Senator McCaskill asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Lee blocked.

12. 6/4 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Rubio blocked.

13. 6/12 Senator Kaine asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Lee blocked.

14. 6/19 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Toomey blocked.

15. 6/26 Senator Murray requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Cruz blocked.

16. 7/11 Senator Murray requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Marco Rubio blocked.

17. 7/17 Senator Murray requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Mike Lee blocked.

18. 8/1 Senator Durbin requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Marco Rubio blocked.

19. 10/2 Senator Murray requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Toomey blocked.

"For six months I've tried to enter into formal budget negotiations with Paul Ryan, only to be repeatedly denied permission to negotiate by Ted Cruz and the tea party," said Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash. "Now, a week into a government shutdown that he could end at a moment's notice, Speaker Boehner is simply trying to distract from his constantly changing list of demands."

The parties flipped positions Monday, the first day of the new fiscal year, when Republicans tried to finally start conference-committee negotiations just minutes before midnight. Democrats balked—"We will not go to conference with a gun to our head," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the floor—considering that they had been rebuffed almost 20 times beforer and that Republicans had shown no interest until it was already clear the government was closing. Last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor tweeted a picture of a faux conference committee, which included zero Democrats, saying, "We sit ready to negotiate with the Senate."

Perhaps we could have avoided a shutdown if they had been ready to negotiate before the government ran out of money.

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