Ghosts of Fiscal Fights Past Say Don’t Surrender

None

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 02: Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) addresses the media after voting on the debt limit bill on August 2, 2011 in Washington, DC. The Senate voted 74-26 to approve the bill to raise the debt ceiling, allowing the U.S. to avoid default on its debts.
National Journal
Michael Catalini
See more stories about...
Michael Catalini
Oct. 6, 2013, 7:37 a.m.

With the gov­ern­ment shuttered and lead­ers nudging closer to the pos­sib­il­ity of a de­fault on the na­tion’s debt, law­makers are re­cog­niz­ing the les­sons of past fisc­al fights. And one in par­tic­u­lar — for bet­ter or worse — is rising above the oth­ers: Do not give in.

Con­gress flir­ted with fisc­al ru­in in 2011 be­fore lead­ers agreed to the Budget Con­trol Act and again on New Year’s Day this year, when they aver­ted the so-called fisc­al cliff. In the af­ter­math of each, each side had a pelt it could claim.

But now, lead­ers and rank-and-file mem­bers are dug in, with the path to­ward res­ol­u­tion mur­ki­er than ever.

The think­ing among Sen­ate Demo­crats is that they’d set a dan­ger­ous polit­ic­al pre­ced­ent if they were to bend to House Re­pub­lic­ans. From the Demo­crat­ic view­point, Re­pub­lic­ans are watch­ing to see how this fight plays out. Any con­ces­sions they ex­tract from Demo­crats will only give them in­cent­ives to do so again in the fu­ture.

“If we were to give in while the gov­ern­ment is shut, what do you think hap­pens on the debt ceil­ing? What do you think hap­pens when the CR has to be re­newed?” Sen. Chuck Schu­mer, D-N.Y., asked re­cently. “The hard Right says, see, by hold­ing a gun to their heads, we got something we wanted. We’ll up the ante this time.”

But Re­pub­lic­ans too have little reas­on to give in. Many con­ser­vat­ives ran on a plat­form ded­ic­ated in part to slash­ing Obama­care and claim a man­date to do just that. From their view­point, there’s little in­cent­ive to defy the con­stitu­ents who sent them to Wash­ing­ton in the first place.

“If you were one of these House guys in 2010, you ran, you beat a Demo­crat in­cum­bent and said, ‘I prom­ise I’ll go to Wash­ing­ton and re­peal Obama­care,’ ” said Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz. “You ex­pect them to back off?”

Demo­crats ad­mit that Re­pub­lic­ans in the House won their elec­tion. To do oth­er­wise, of course, would be to ig­nore real­ity. But they quickly point out that their reas­on for not giv­ing in that they won an elec­tion of their own — the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion.

“One of the big changes is that they had just won a huge elec­tion,” Schu­mer said. “They lost a big elec­tion in 2012.”

It’s not just the elec­tion res­ults, either, that ex­plain the polit­ic­al brink­man­ship. Re­pub­lic­ans picked a fight over what is destined to be­come a key part of Pres­id­ent Obama’s leg­acy.

“Pres­id­ent Obama views Obama­care as per­haps the most sig­nal achieve­ment of his ad­min­is­tra­tion and so there­fore he is much more com­mit­ted on this is­sue than prob­ably he would be on al­most any oth­er is­sue,” Mc­Cain said.

For law­makers, the polit­ic­al fight in 2010 over Obama­care it­self leaves bit­ter traces be­hind. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, re­mem­bers tak­ing votes at 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. without the chance to of­fer amend­ments, and today’s battle feels fa­mil­i­ar.

“It is ex­tremely grid­locked now. This is cer­tainly one of the worst times,” Collins said. “But in terms of the im­pact on the coun­try, this is far worse. Far worse.”

Asked what les­sons he’s learned from the 2011 and 2012 fisc­al fights, Sen. Carl Lev­in, D-Mich., took the op­por­tun­ity to throw a polit­ic­al stone.

“It takes lead­er­ship to end [these fights],” Lev­in said. “Speak­er Boehner is not a strong lead­er, to put it mildly.”

Lev­in, who’s re­tir­ing after 34 years in the Sen­ate, said what he’s see­ing in the cur­rent fight is un­pre­ced­en­ted.

“I’ve nev­er seen an in­ab­il­ity of a lead­er, ul­ti­mately, to do what he thinks is the right thing to do, even though 5 or 10 per­cent of his caucus doesn’t,” Lev­in said. “I’ve nev­er seen this.”

Opin­ions like Lev­in’s have been the norm with law­makers, al­beit with al­most a mir­ror im­age com­ing from many Re­pub­lic­ans.

Asked wheth­er the les­son that all law­makers had learned was really just that win­ning is the most im­port­ant goal, Collins shook her head.

“That’s what I’m try­ing to get away from,” she said. “For us just to make par­tis­an speeches on the Sen­ate floor, blast­ing one an­oth­er, doesn’t do it.”

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
7 REPUBLICANS ON STAGE
Carly Fiorina Will Not Be Allowed to Debate on Saturday
1 days ago
THE LATEST

ABC News has announced the criteria for Saturday’s Republican debate, and that means Carly Fiorina won’t be a part of it. The network is demanding candidates have “a top-three finish in Iowa, a top-six standing in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or a top-six placement in national polls in order for candidates to qualify.” And there will be no “happy hour” undercard debate this time. “So that means no Fiorina vs. Jim Gilmore showdown earlier in the evening for the most ardent of campaign 2016 junkies.

Source:
×