Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Party of "No"

The latest on the government shutdown and the nearing debt ceiling limit, from Politico:
Democratic leaders in the Senate are rejecting an offer by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to end the budget impasse, arguing it asks for too much in return for too little, senators and aides tell POLITICO. 
The development comes on the same day that the Senate voted 53-45 to block a Democratic bill that would raise the debt ceiling through 2014 without any spending cuts or changes to Obamacare. 
The Collins plan, which was drafted with input from West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) and other senators, called for a six-month extension of government funding and a debt limit increase through January. But it asked for a delay in Obamacare’s medical device tax for two years and a requirement for income verification for Obamacare subsidies. 
While it would give federal agencies more flexibility to work within the constraints of the automatic sequestration cuts, Democrats objected to the level of funding that Collins was seeking, which would lock-in the levels under the sequester at $967 billion next year, far too low for many Democrats, 
Moreover, Democrats are calling for a longer-term budget deal that would raise the debt ceiling and extend government funding. And they said that agreeing to a shorter-term budget deal and a lower funding level — with a handful of changes to Obamacare — was asking too much after they have called for a “clean” increase to the $16.7 trillion national debt ceiling and a stop-gap measure to keep the government running.
Clearly, Senate Democrats think they have the upper hand in the negotiations. Fair enough. At the same time, it's absurd to think that blame goes in one direction only when both House and Senate Republicans have made proposal after proposal to end the impasse, only to be told "no." Not "here's a counterproposal" or "we're not prepared to negotiate in this area but there may be some room to negotiate over here." Just "no."

I'll have to say that I'm a bit amused by how "Obamacare" - once considered pejorative by Democrats - has been embraced by Democrats and the media.


Edward Pearse said...

"Obamacare" was passed as law 3 years ago. It was debated for 2 years before that. It's been all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that yes, it's Constitutional.

But now the Teaparty is holding the country to ransom while they throw a tantrum because laws were passed that they didn't like.

Can I burn down your house?


Just the 2nd floor?




Let's talk about what I can burn down.



I didn't see the Dems holding up an Appropriations Bill when the firearms legislation failed to go through.

Rhianon Jameson said...

I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree on the merits of Obamacare. But let me make two observations about the idea that it's the law now and that ends the debate.

First, surely we both agree that some laws are bad, are unjust, and need to be repealed. Jim Crow laws and, indeed, slavery were once the law of the land despite being an ugly blot on the country's conscience. Abortion was regulated at the state level but was banned in large parts of the country until the Supreme Court ruled that those laws were un-Constitutional. The fact that the Affordable Care Act passed both houses of Congress - and by the smallest possible margin in the Senate - with not a single Republican vote is not a sufficient argument to keep the law in place.

Second, in the 2000-page monstrosity of the ACA there's a lot of specificity. The President, for example, is not given the leeway to grant waivers to favored groups, or to postpone the employer mandate for a year, or any of the other bits and pieces of the law that he has chosen to ignore because they're not convenient for him. Indeed, one of the bits that he's chosen to ignore is the requirement that individuals who enroll verify their income in order to be eligible for taxpayer subsidies - something that seems like a common-sense provision. The President argued that the computer systems were unable to handle that bit, and so he had the authority to ignore it. Given all this, when House Republicans asked for a one-year delay in the individual mandate (and, as I write this, Senate Republicans seem to be cooking up a deal that involves actually enforcing the income verification provision), were they being unreasonable?

You analogize conservatives' demands to wanting to burn down someone else's house. But, among other things, the country isn't the President's house, or the Senate's house. Congress consists of two, equal chambers, and one has every right to insist on its priorities, just as the other has every right to refuse. (Whether the House was right to pick this particular fight is a different issue.)

It's unfortunate that Congress continually precipitates these crises by refusing to do its job in a timely manner. Once upon a time, back when I first came to Washington, both houses passed separate appropriations bills for big chunks of spending (e.g., defense) early enough that differences were settled in committee and spending was passed more-or-less on time. The problem was that "compromise" meant adding enough extra pork to the bills to buy enough votes, so spending got out of control, but the up side was that no one played brinksmanship games with appropriations or the debt limit. Then they started delaying the appropriations bills until late in the game, at which point they had no choice but to pass a continuing resolution until they figured out one single pork-laden omnibus bill. For the past few years they haven't bothered to do even that, funding the government through a year-long continuing resolution and playing further games like the sequester. One can blame the Tea Party for this, but I think there's a deeper issue: the country has become increasingly polarized, and rhetoric has become increasingly shrill. I don't have a good suggestion for a solution to that problem.

Edward Pearse said...

Yes the Jim Crow laws, and even Abortion laws were once in place. The difference here is that the laws were repealed by having new legislation introduced into by the government or challenged in the Court and found invalid. The Court has ruled that the laws ARE Constitutional so those opposing them need to submit legislation to have it repealed. THAT's the process to have them removed, not holding the country hostage to a budget bill.

The analogy of who owns the house is irrelevant and you miss the point. It's about how calls for Negotiation by the Republicans refuse to be about passing the budget without reference to the Care Act. The Budget has nothing to do with it and should be passed or defeated on its own merits.

As for the Healthcare Bill itself. I agree it's bad legislation. But given the outcry about this tiny first step, actually putting in GOOD legislation that offered Universal Healthcare instead of this band-aid measure, would cause people's heads to explode.

I'll leave you with this.

Rhianon Jameson said...

I don't understand your distinction. If you'd like examples of laws that were Constitutional but later determined to be bad ideas, I'm sure we can come up with as many as needed. Do you, for example, think laws prohibiting the sale or use of marijuana are good laws? They're certainly Constitutional, but several states seem to think they're outdated.

I'm also confused by the claim that the budget is separate from the ACA and should be negotiated separately. Everything is connected. I actually agree with you that legislation would be better if bills were small and confined to single issues, but neither party agrees with us. For example, I read recently that Sen. (Ted) Kennedy insisted on campaign-finance reform to a debt limit increase during the Nixon years, and budget negotiations routinely involve horse-trading between the parties.

Regarding the ACA, we'll have to disagree on the bill being a tiny first step, even if it doesn't go as far as you would prefer. :)