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Democrats Must Not, Can Not, Cave In! April 7, 2011

Posted by Afflatus in Politics.
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A friend of mine suggested today that she thinks the Democrats should cave in to Republican budget demands because of all the devastating consequences to people and to the economy of a government shutdown. While these consequences are disastrous, I totally disagree. Caving would be have horrible policy consequences, could save Boehner from political defeat, and prove that Democrats are in fact spineless.

The Democrats should not cave first and foremost on principle. Boehner’s demands in closed-door sessions are apparently about cuts to environmental programs and women’s health programs (presumably EPA and Planned Parenthood). These programs do a great deal of good for our country, agreeing to cuts to them would be wrong. If the democrats won’t stand for the environment and a women’s right to choose, what will they stand for?

Secondly, Speaker Boehner is in a horribly precarious political corner  right now. He basically has two options: 1) he compromises with Democrats or 2) he plays hardball, continues to demand more and more cuts.  These two options reflect the deep divisions within the GOP’s ranks. He has ruled out option 1 because at this point a compromise would likely cost him the Speakership. Tea-party minded Representatives would revolt, and it’s quite feasible that Eric Cantor could become Speaker. There is a well-known rivalry between these two, and their positions regarding the FY11 budget have distanced as the budget talks deepened. Boehner obviously wants to retain the Speakership, so the compromise option is out. He chose option 2 – playing hardball. After the three week CR in which Democrats caved and agreed to GOP demands of cuts of $30 billion over three weeks, Boehner now demands more. Today, Democrats proposed a 1 week extension at the current levels (which are already $30 billion lower than 3 weeks ago) in order to provide more space and time for a compromise, and the Republicans refused to bring it to a vote. It appears as if option 2 for Boehner will lead to a government shutdown in which he is blamed. This is also a very bad option for Boehner. This is the horribly precarious situation in which Boehner now resides.

When your negotiating opponent is in such a weak position, and when you have already acceded to his/her prior demands and they only moved the goalposts, caving in is not an option. Due to the policy demands which caving in would require agreeing to, caving becomes even more odious. Democrats should stand up for the issues they care about and should proclaim loud and clear that this is the Republicans fault. Boehner will get blamed and will likely compromise within a week. After getting blamed for the shutdown, Boehner will not wish to prolong a shutdown which would only bring more criticism of his leadership from the public.

The government shutdown will have disastrous effects on the American people. Unfortunately, House Republicans don’t care. This is the fault of the Republican leadership and Democrats must make that clear. If the Democrats can’t communicate this effectively, they simply can’t communicate period.