Rep. Paul Ryan and a bunch of indistinguishable white guy Republicans unveil the Medicare-busting budget. And now they need cover. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
It's been frustrating the last few weeks watching the Democrats play their usual capitulation game—Republicans hold steady to their position, while Democrats whittle away at theirs slice by slice in the desperate hope that they'll get Republican buy-in.
We've seen this game play out time and time again, and whatever the reasons (usually a variation of "We don't have the votes!"), and whether those reasons are justified or not, it's still a frustrating thing to watch. If there's one thing Republicans have learned the last several years it's that Democrats don't know how to negotiate, so why bother compromising?
So we end up with bizarre outcomes like Republicans railing against the health care mandate ... when it was their damn idea in the first place!
Here we are again. The Republicans demanded a debt bill that omitted any new revenue, and didn't exceed the number of budget cuts. The Democrats finally delivered on that bottom line, and Republicans still refuse to accept a deal that, once again, is what they asked for.
Furthermore, reports claimed that Obama was willing to make some cuts to entitlements, angering congressional Democrats who hope to 1) protect those entitlements because it's the right thing, and 2) use Republican efforts to gut Medicare as the winning campaign issue in 2012. Assuming those reports were true (and maybe they weren't), Republicans could've effectively split the left by agreeing to such a deal, all at the low cost of eliminating some tax loopholes.
So the question is, why the fuck won't they say "yes" and declare victory?
1) They want to embarrass the president. Notice that every Republican proposal the last week has included some sort of mechanism that requires Congress to keep having debt votes up to the 2012 election. For a crowd that likes to drone on and on about "uncertain business climates" and other such nonsense, this is an admission that their 2012 hopes are more important to them than any ridiculous notion of business climates. It's also an admission that they'd rather send the nation to debtor's prison than give up a political cudgel.
The irony, of course, is that no one really gives a shit about the debt. Another irony: Republicans don't need congressional votes to accuse Democrats of spending too much. They're going to do that anyway.
2) Republicans desperately need political cover. Republicans screwed up big time by voting for the Ryan budget that guts Medicare. They lost the NY-26 special election on the issue, and they will be under severe assault from the same seniors who delivered them the House in 2010. Remember, a big chunk of the 2010 Republican campaign was the claim that Democrats were slashing Medicare. Funny how the GOP House then actually tried to slash Medicare. It's that GOP projection again.
So if you find yourself on the side of a huge losing issue, what can Republicans do? They certainly can't undo that Ryan vote. With a few tiny exceptions, they all voted for it. They can't take that back. But what they can do is create a "both sides do it" dynamic by forcing Democrats to agree to cut Medicare.
That's why you see the Orange Man continue to demand cuts in entitlements. They need Democratic buy-in for their efforts to destroy our social net, that way Democrats can't wield the Ryan budget as a political weapon in next year's elections.
So there you go. That's why Republicans won't take yes for an answer, despite a Democratic Party that is desperate to capitulate. Now that that's answered, maybe someone could help me answer this question:
Why did Democrats all-but-ignore Mitch McConnell's offer of a clean debt bill, and continue to insist on a deal with trillions in cuts?
The Democratic embrace of austerity is so ridiculous and nonsensical, that I can't even begin to understand the rationale.
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