Discussion Question: Define “Compromise”

So, let’s consider:  what would constitute “compromise” on the President’s part that could be used to end this crisis and get the GOP to vote a CR out of the House that could also pass the Senate?

I have been giving it some thought, and I am stumped because the only compromises I can come up with are basically capitulations, and this seems an unlikely outcome.

So, what does everyone think?

(And I am not looking for name-calling or ideological screeds, I am sincerely curious as to what people think).

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Mark says:

    Obama has a brilliant move he isn’t making: give up the medical devices tax. Nobody thinks it’ll be around very long anyway, and it puts the GOP in the position of having to decline a tax cut to keep the government shut down.

  2. anjin-san says:

    Under these circumstances, I just don’t see where “compromise” is part of the equation. Republicans are not engaging in governing, they are taking hostages and issuing demands.

    Personally, I want Obama to stand firm. The remarkable political stability of the United States, one of our core strengths, is at risk.

  3. Scott says:

    My view is that this “compromise” is just a one way street. A CR and Debt Limit increase is wanted by both sides and any compromise will accrue benefits to only the Republicans. The asymmetrical nature of the issue is the problem.

  4. Eric J. says:

    A six-month delay in the implementation of the individual mandate, in return for a promise that there will be no further attempts to defund entirely.

  5. David M says:

    I’m not necessarily opposed to compromise, but the GOP needs to bring something to the table other than the following:

    1) Passing a clean CR
    2) Raising the debt ceiling

    As both sides claim to want those things, the GOP can’t offer those as part of a negotiation. Things both sides agree on are hostages.

  6. grumpy realist says:

    Either the medical device tax or a short delay (3 months) on the individual mandate. Not both. This would be appropriate if the other side were, in fact, interested in negotiating.

    Unfortunately, what the Republicans want is not negotiating but absolute capitulation. Does anyone believe that if we WERE to delay the individual mandate by a year that the Republican Party wouldn’t spent the entire next year thumping the drums about how Obamacare should be gotten rid of entirely? And does anyone believe that if they were able to get anything this time around they’re not going to use the same damn strategy of holding the nation hostage every time we need a similar vote in the future?

  7. mantis says:

    I reject the premise that the President must compromise to prevent the Republicans from destroying the economy. It’s absurd.

  8. Todd says:

    There is no “compromise” possible on the CR or the Debt Ceiling.

    That said, I could see the President publicly promising to put the “grand bargain” (i.e.. Medicare and Social Security) topics back on the table for discussion AFTER a debt limit bill (preferably with a permanent version of McConnell’s debt ceiling compromise language) is passed.

  9. C. Clavin says:

    Compromise or capitulation of any kind in the face of hostage taking upsets the Constitutional order of things. If allowed to win anything they’ll just come back to the trough at the first opportunity. That’s the lesson Obama learned when he did capitulate.
    Kidnapping is a huge industry in S. America. But families will allow the kidnappers to keep family members for years…because if you give in to their demands…they only increase their demands.
    Question: Did Democrats hold the Economy hostage over the Bush Tax Cuts? And had they, would Bush have capitulated? And we now know how much damage those tax cuts did.
    This whole thing is nonsensical…proven by the fact that Republicans have spent months refusing a budget deal and now want to make a budget deal.
    They aren’t even good kidnappers.

  10. EdMigPer says:

    Compromise? Really?

    There is nothing to compromise here. If we had regular business in Washington, there would be compromise.

    This is not regular business. This is straight out of the book blackmail. You cannot compromise with blackmail and call it a “compromise.”

  11. David M says:

    @Eric J.:

    A six-month delay in the implementation of the individual mandate, in return for a promise that there will be no further attempts to defund entirely.

    It’s the GOP and Tea Party. No negotiations that involve promises.

  12. Mikey says:

    I am not looking for name-calling or ideological screeds

    You might as well turn in your key to the Internet now, then…

    Seriously, though, I’m also not sure what the President could offer that would be a true compromise, and I think giving up anything would just set a precedent for future Congressional attempts at extra-legislative repeal of laws by a party that was unable to do so through legitimate processes.

  13. Rob in CT says:

    @Mark:

    I really disagree with this, unless the tax is replaced by another source of revenue. Otherwise, you’ve got a concession (in an environment where concessions are, IMO, a terrible idea) that increases the deficit and allows the GOP to scream louder about the ACA. Granted, that’s only if they take the concession, and they’ve shown that they have trouble taking yes for an answer.

  14. @Mikey:

    You might as well turn in your key to the Internet now, then…

    Yes, well, a man can dream.

    (Although so far, I think it has been a legit discussion).

  15. Neil Hudelson says:

    Announce what has already been compromised, and challenge Republicans to answer why this isn’t enough:
    -Sequestration stays in place
    -Bush tax cuts stay in place
    -The budget the Republicans created and passed will be funded (ok, not a compromise, but seriously how is this not the message?)

  16. Ben says:

    Compromise implies that both sides give up something. Unless the Republicans also give the Democrats something, then it isn’t a compromise. Ending the shutdown or raising the debt limit aren’t “giving the democrats” anything. They are necessary things for a functioning government.

  17. Moosebreath says:

    @Eric J.:

    “A six-month delay in the implementation of the individual mandate, in return for a promise that there will be no further attempts to defund entirely.”

    Even ignoring the likelihood that the True Believers will reneg on this promise, what is to stop them from then asking for another 6 month delay? And another? And another?

  18. Rob in CT says:

    I know I posted this in another thread already, but this is actually the best place to put it.

    John Cole nailed this (February 5, 2009):

    I really don’t understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties is insane. Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax. If you can figure out a way to split the difference there and find a meal you will both enjoy, you can probably figure out how bipartisanship is going to work the next few years.

  19. David M says:

    Compromises that shouldn’t be considered by the Democrats include anything that reduces revenue and any change to Obamacare. The GOP has made raising revenue far more difficult than it should be, and any disruptions (changes) to Obamacare will be used as reasons to scrap the system. The GOP will absolutely ask for the repeal of the Medical Devices Tax and then say the “deficit” means they have to cut both Obamacare and other programs.

  20. anjin-san says:

    I am going to share something that happened on another thread. This was Jenos’ response when I shared the story of how a social worker has helped my kid, who is mentally ill:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I’m not even certain I believe your ever-convenient personal circumstances that you use to rationalize getting all hissy in these discussions, but I’ll answer them with a long-standing observation: the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.”

    And, while you’re at it, bite me.

    (Cue annie’s next tantrum about his dental problems and my casual remark is A Gross Insult Beyond The Pale Of Civilization…)

    That was his response when I shared some details of a terrible tragedy that has struck my family, and how a badly overworked government worker has done so much to help us.

    This is the mentality of the people we are supposed to compromise with.

  21. KM says:

    Turn it around. What are the Republican’s willing to give? Compromise and negations require by definition that both sides are arguing about getting what they want and what they’re willing to sacrifice to get it. If only one side does it, its capitulation.

    What are the TEAs willing to pony up?

  22. Joe says:

    I don’t think the Republicans in Congress have the authority to negotiate. They might offer a compromise (name any short of total capitulation) but the base that gets them through primaries won’t ratify it. Boehner can make any good faith offer he wants. He can’t enforce it.

  23. Rob in CT says:

    Related.

    Erick son of Erick:

    Democrats keep talking about our refusal to compromise. They don’t realize our compromise is defunding Obamacare. We actually want to repeal it.

  24. mistermix says:

    Can’t improve much on John Cole’s tire rims and anthrax formulation, but I will add that another part of the issue with any “concession” or “compromise” is that any bargain requires representatives from either side who are empowered to make a deal. It’s pretty clear Boehner is not so empowered. He must run everything past his caucus, and it’s likely that any compromise will fall apart during that process, even if Boehner honestly believed that the compromise was tenable.

  25. Matt Bernius says:

    Darn you Taylor. Darn you to heck!

    I decided to post this same question when I got home and you beat me to it.

    Not only that, but you really nailed the key problem facing the *Republican Party* and the nation as a whole:

    I have been giving it some thought, and I am stumped because the only compromises I can come up with are basically capitulations, and this seems and unlikely outcome.
    [Emphasis mine]

    The issue is that the people who fomented all this action (Cruz and Co. in Congress, Heritage Action, Conservative Media) promised their base a capitulation. They might have used the word compromise, but what they have always described is a capitulation.

    Further the Republican House CR Bills thus far have all contained capitulations that are referred to as compromises.

    The net result is that Republicans have effectively flipped the meanings of the two terms for all intents and purposes.

    The trap Republicans have ended up with is that any true compromise is going to look like too much of a capitulation to be acceptable to a number of their members, not to mention the CMC side of their base.

    Which gets us to:

    “We’re not going to be disrespected,” conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

    You can’t effectively compromise your way to saving face under these measures. And the base gets that. And, given their record of being disappointed by past compromises (and compromise candidates) and the fact that Obamacare has been positioned as THE defining domestic issue of their time, I don’t see how they don’t do everything to go down fighting on this one.

  26. Matt Bernius says:

    @Eric J.:

    A six-month delay in the implementation of the individual mandate, in return for a promise that there will be no further attempts to defund entirely.

    Given the current track record of the Republican party, including the fact that they are not even willing to honor approving a sequester budget extension without a fight, what proof is there that they would stick to this deal?

  27. Rob in CT says:

    Compromise is I give something and you give something. We meet in the middle. Maybe not the exact middle, but somewhere around there.

    This gets tricky sometimes when the other side opens negotiations with absurdity. You go to a settlement conference with $100k available and the other side opens up demanding $5 million (result: you are both insulted, and think the other side may be crazy). This tells you that the other side is expecting to get multiple millions of dollars. Your side is clearly interested in a 6-figure settlement, most likely south of $500k. There are times when a deal just isn’t possible.

    But the other factor here is the tactical decision to use the shutdown and possible debt default as leverage. That cannot be allowed (again, ugh). No. This must stop.

  28. john personna says:

    I’ve told this story, but not in a while …

    I had a hiking buddy. I was right of center, and he was left. He would throw out questions or issues, and we’d talk them over. Since we had time, we started with our philosophy for the issue, me favoring markets or efficiency, he more often favoring fairness or social justice. As we walked though we’d start to get more pragmatic, and seek something that would work, not just for the both of us, but for real. That was compromise. It was useful compromise because it was seeking a solution.

    Now what would not have been compromise:

    me: Remember that deal we made last week? I want more.

    rick: What are you giving in exchange.

    me: Nothing.

    rick: Now you’re just being a dick.

    me: Yes, yes I am.

  29. john personna says:

    BTW, as I’ve also said, I don’t think “just” giving up the medical devices tax is workable, because it leads to a following question … how do you offset the lost revenue?

    If you are a Tea your rapid answer is “well, we just cut some of these Obamacare benefits.”

    GOTO 10

  30. anjin-san says:

    Obamacare has been positioned as THE defining domestic issue of their time,

    In the last election, they positioned the Obama presidency as the defining issue of our time, and lost. That lesson seems to be one that had little or no impact on them.

  31. CB says:

    @Rob in CT:

    “At first we were going to blow your house up. Now were just going to burn it down. Why wont you compromise!”

    I mean…what the hell!?

  32. john personna says:

    Another thought … I understand that some view this simply as an adversarial system.

    They feel that both sides fight, and whatever falls out must be the best course.

    But … that seems pretty foolish in the face of evidence. We have broad government dysfunction falling out of that.

    That’s why voters, looking after their own interests, want (true) compromise.

  33. al-Ameda says:

    In this sorry episode Republicans have revealed that they do not care about spending at all. How do we know this? Simple – they’re quite willing to end the shut down if ACA is taken down, they do not care about anything but humiliating the president and his taking most prominent legislation down.

    There is no compromise worthy of that term that is possible here. One party, the Republican Party – which controls 53% of 1/3rd of the government is negotiating to take control of our government. This is an attempt of a Hostile Takeover. How do you compromise with that? They deserve nothing.

    I would be advising him to have financial leaders constantly (every single day, and throughout the day) hammering Republicans on the deleterious effects of leveraging this shutdown into a default.

  34. Scott says:

    For some reason, I think how the Cuban Missile crisis played out. On the surface, we stood the Soviets down. Found out much later there was a deal to move missiles out of Turkey scheduled to not make the two events linked. Though a lot less critical, this “negotiation” may have to have a similar path. Would it work. I doubt it in this day and age.

  35. dazedandconfused says:

    Just adding a bit of nuance:

    They are using crisis as a “come along”, a ratchet. If in each one they win a bit of compromise, they inevitably achieve capitulation.

  36. john personna says:

    I guess news just in is that Boehner, realizing that “no default” put him in a box, has reversed himself and put default again on the table.

    Poor dumb SOB.

    He loses one way or the other.

  37. Gustopher says:

    The Democrats agree to keep the sequester in place in the continuing resolution. And, behold, they have already compromised.

    Ok, Boehner can eat sh.t and not like it, as opposed to eating sh.t and liking it.

  38. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Obama could give up the ACA and in return the GOP would allow Medicare for all.

  39. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    The trap they’ve ended up with is that any true compromise is going to look like too much of a capitulation to be acceptable to a number of their members — not to mention the CMC side of their base.

    They have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  40. Jen says:

    I thought the compromise was the additional cuts Reid agreed to, in exchange for the clean CR, which Boehner promptly went back on. After that, how can additional compromise even be considered?

  41. superdestroyer says:

    @mantis:

    so if you are not willing to compromise, then someone should say how many days that they are willing to tolerate a government shutdown.

    A compromise would be to offer a 5% cut across the board in all budgets (including Defense and entitlement spending) or a CR for the rest of the year. That is about 180 billion dollars in buget cuts in FY14 for a full year CR for this year. The Democrats can keep the ACA, the REpublicans get a huge win on spending cuts, and President Obama gets to look like a leader by cutting waste and poor ROE programs out of the budget and gets to shrink the budget deficit.

  42. David M says:

    @superdestroyer:

    As you well know, but refuse to acknowledge, the disagreement isn’t over the FY2014 budget. You still don’t understand the issue well enough to contribute anything useful.

  43. Moosebreath says:

    @superdestroyer:

    “so if you are not willing to compromise, then someone should say how many days that they are willing to tolerate a government shutdown.”

    As many days as it takes to prevent holding the government hostage so that a minority can overturn a law on the books that they could not muster enough support to repeal by normal means from ever being considered a legitimate tactic again in our lifetimes.

    “A compromise would be to offer a 5% cut across the board in all budgets (including Defense and entitlement spending) or a CR for the rest of the year.”

    On top of the sequester that’s already baked into the CR? No thanks.

  44. john personna says:

    @supertroll:

    So two men are riding along and they reach a 3-way fork in the road.

    – one trail leads left
    – one trail continues on
    – one trail leads right

    “let’s go left” “no let’s go right”

    “OK, as a compromise we could continue on, status quo.”

    “no, if we don’t go right I set the wagon on fire.”

    “we can just continue on”

    “no, that is giving you everything you want, I’m getting out my matches …”

    (poor dumb SOBs. they’ve put themselves in this spot, telling their constituents that continuing the existing compromise is defeat, rather than no loss, no gain.)

  45. David M says:

    @superdestroyer:

    A compromise would be to offer a 5% cut across the board in all budgets (including Defense and entitlement spending) or a CR for the rest of the year. That is about 180 billion dollars in buget cuts in FY14 for a full year CR for this year. The Democrats can keep the ACA

    So to you “repeal Obamacare or cut $180 billion from the budget” is a compromise? That’s no different than asking someone whether they want their arm or leg broken, and then complaining they won’t compromise because they don’t want any limbs broken.

  46. @john personna: An apt description of the situation.

  47. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Thank you. I seem to be on animal transport themes this morning.

  48. MM says:

    The issue with delaying the individual mandate 3 months or 6 months is that in many cases you are delaying it for a year. Open enrollment for many businesses begins soon, which is why the goal was to get the exchanges open now, so people who are insured can compare.

  49. @Matt Bernius:

    Darn you Taylor. Darn you to heck!

    Sorry about that 😉

  50. mantis says:

    @superdestroyer:

    so if you are not willing to compromise

    Compromise is fine in normal order, where the legislature debates and negotiates over their various policy goals. This is Republicans threatening to destroy the economy unless they get whatever they want. That’s not compromise, that’s capitulation to terrorists.

    then someone should say how many days that they are willing to tolerate a government shutdown

    Zero days. That’s why I demand that Republcans release the hostages immediately and bring a clean CR up for a vote. We can negotiate and compromise to reach deals afterwards, when there is no gun to our heads.

  51. mantis says:

    @superdestroyer:

    The Democrats can keep the ACA,

    It’s the law, moron. OK, Republicans get to keep the various laws they have passed over the years. There’s your compromise.

  52. grumpy realist says:

    @Rob in CT: I sort of had that when opening negotiations with a company in Las Vegas. They wanted to pay local pay level for a patent agent (so that’s no, no lawyer) for a position that was described as requiring the skills and duties of a bilingual patent attorney. (They didn’t realize that was what they were asking for, but a lot of it was definitely the practice of law.)

    In short, they were probably thinking in the $40K range and I wasn’t going to even look at an offer under $160K. And we probably both thought the other side was crazy. (I still think so.) I wonder if they ever found someone?

  53. Todd says:

    I’m interested, I got twice as many down votes as ups on my previous comment. I know it wasn’t the “he shouldn’t compromise” part, because pretty much everybody else said that. So I assume it was this:

    That said, I could see the President publicly promising to put the “grand bargain” (i.e.. Medicare and Social Security) topics back on the table for discussion AFTER a debt limit bill (preferably with a permanent version of McConnell’s debt ceiling compromise language) is passed.

    What’s wrong with that?

    Once we’re past this crisis (if we get past it), eventually there is going to have to be some compromise. The sequester spending level was bad enough this year, it’s going to worse the longer it’s allowed to go on. Long-term entitlement spending seems like an area in which this administration is willing to negotiate.

  54. al-Ameda says:

    @Todd:

    That said, I could see the President publicly promising to put the “grand bargain” (i.e.. Medicare and Social Security) topics back on the table for discussion AFTER a debt limit bill (preferably with a permanent version of McConnell’s debt ceiling compromise language) is passed.

    What’s wrong with that?

    The down-votes you received? Speaking for myself only, I now perceive that the new breed of Republicans are not interested in normal recalibration of Medicare and Social Security, they’re interested in presiding over phasing them out of public sector management, in privatizing them. So, I am not sure there is any trust between Democrats and Republicans concerning negotiating normal “fix it” measures for Social Security and Medicare. Maybe some down-voted you on this because of that?

    Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform was to provide seniors with a voucher have them purchase their health insurance on the private market, and the proposed voucher amounts were well short of the amount generally necessary for a senior citizen to purchase health insurance.

  55. grumpy realist says:

    The other problem is that there’s no other side that one can consistently negotiate with. Boehner is trying to play two roles at once–he’s the Speaker of the House but he’s also acting as if he’s a “negotiator” for the crazy-wing of his party.

    So who’s in charge? Who rules in Berlin? (very obscure historical reference.)

  56. Todd says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Fair enough. Just to be clear though, I wasn’t talking about Paul Ryan’s proposals; I was talking about the type of things that it looked like the President might be willing to do back when he and Speaker Boehner were still “negotiating”.

    I also didn’t mean to imply that I thought this sort of compromise was “likely” to produce results … this is just what I think it could look like.

  57. Barry says:

    @Eric J.: “A six-month delay in the implementation of the individual mandate, in return for a promise that there will be no further attempts to defund entirely. ”

    In other words, a (presumably) enforceable concession by Obama in return for a non-enforceable[1] concession by the GOP. Which, even if agreed to, would leave the GOP in a sweet position to do it all over again.

    [1] Budgets require a majority in the House plus a majority in the Senate to agree to the same bill, so there are numerous choke points to keep a budget from passing.

  58. gVOR08 says:

    What’s the proper point of compromise between a child who threatens to hold his breath until he turns blue and a responsible parent who wants the kid to stop threatening that?