Paul Ryan Reemerges, Offering The GOP An Obamacare-Free Way Out

Paul Ryan is back, and he has a plan his party ought to be paying attention to.

Paul Ryan

Throughout the past two weeks, there’s been one face missing from most of the debate about the Continuing Resolution, the Affordable Care Act, and the debt ceiling, and it’s a person who has been conspicuous by his absence. That person is House Budget Committee Chairman, and 2012 Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan, who has long been the House GOP’s go-to voice when it comes to fiscal issues. Ryan did not completely disappear, of course, he was voting on the matters that came to the House floor and he could usually be seen among those standing behind either Speaker Boehner or Majority Leader Cantor at the nearly daily press conference that one or the other has held over the past two weeks or so. He hasn’t spoken at those conferences, though, and at least as far as I’ve been able to tell, he has not been spoken much on the House floor. During that time, there have been reports that Ryan was working on a proposal of his own, and that there had even been some contact between him and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray. Today, Ryan came forward in the form of Wall Street Journal Op-Ed that puts forward a proposal on resolving the current crisis that has one noticeable omission:

If Mr. Obama decides to talk, he’ll find that we actually agree on some things. For example, most of us agree that gradual, structural reforms are better than sudden, arbitrary cuts. For my Democratic colleagues, the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act are a major concern. And the truth is, there’s a better way to cut spending. We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs.

These reforms are vital. Over the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office predicts discretionary spending—that is, everything except entitlement programs and debt payments—will grow by $202 billion, or roughly 17%. Meanwhile, mandatory spending—which mostly consists of funding for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—will grow by $1.6 trillion, or roughly 79%. The 2011 Budget Control Act largely ignored entitlement spending. But that is the nation’s biggest challenge.

The two political parties have worked together on entitlements before. In 1982, Social Security’s trustees warned Congress that the program would go bankrupt within a year. If it had, seniors would have seen an immediate cut in their benefits. Instead, Congress passed a package of reforms—the most important of which was an increase in the retirement age. Because Congress phased in this reform over time, there were no budget savings in the first five years. But through 2012, the savings were $100 billion. In the next 75 years, Social Security’s actuaries expect that these reforms will save $4.6 trillion.

Just as a good investment gets higher returns through compound interest, structural reforms produce greater savings over time. Most important, they make the programs more secure. They protect them for current seniors and preserve them for the next generation. That’s what the president and Congress should talk about.

Here are just a few ideas to get the conversation started. We could ask the better off to pay higher premiums for Medicare. We could reform Medigap plans to encourage efficiency and reduce costs. And we could ask federal employees to contribute more to their own retirement.

The president has embraced these ideas in budget proposals he has submitted to Congress. And in earlier talks with congressional Republicans, he has discussed combining Medicare’s Part A and Part B, so the program will be less confusing for seniors. These ideas have the support of nonpartisan groups like the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and they would strengthen these critical programs. And all of them would help pay down the debt.

We should also enact pro-growth reforms that put people back to work—like opening up America’s vast energy reserves to development. There is even some agreement on taxes across the aisle.

Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.) and Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) have been working for more than a year now on a bipartisan plan to reform the tax code. They agree on the fundamental principles: Broaden the base, lower the rates and simplify the code. The president himself has argued for just such an approach to corporate taxes. So we should discuss how Congress can take up the Camp-Baucus plan when it’s ready.

Reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code will spur economic growth—another goal that both parties share.

The most obvious thing about Ryan’s proposal, in addition to the fact that it does in fact include ideas that both sides of the political aisle have endorsed at various times this year and in years past, is that it makes no mention at all of the Affordable Care Act. There’s no defunding proposal, no proposal to delay implementation of the law as a whole or the individual mandate, no proposal to eliminate the non-existent “Congressional Exemption,” and no proposal to eliminate the Medical Device Tax, all of which are items that the GOP controlled House has tried to insert in Continuing Resolutions over the past two weeks. Not surprisingly, that very fact has caused many on the right to jump up and attack Ryan, most notably Red State’s Erick Erickson, who wrote this morning that conservatives must insist that Congress keep up what clearly seems to be a doomed effort to defund Obamacare. Indeed, that seems to be all that Erickson concerns himself with given the fact that he doesn’t even address the specifics of what Ryan proposes.

Noah Rothman voices similar concerns:

Republicans want a way out of this crisis – a crisis most of the party’s members in Congress never wanted in the first place. Ryan has offered them a way out. It is a solution that both Democrats and the president can live with – the path of least resistance. But it abandons the core goal of the shutdown from the perspective of those who thought this maneuver necessary.

If the GOP takes this route, it will only isolate the conservative members of the Congress who view the ACA as an existential threat to the country. They will be made more fractious, less amendable to reason and control, and may prevent the party from picking the next fight at a time of their choosing. It would also be a political setback for the party. There are few redeeming traits associated with this government shutdown, but Republicans appearing to mount a noble last stand against an unpopular law is one of them.

If the party goes Ryan’s route, the GOP will receive accolades from the media and interest groups inside the Beltway. Meanwhile, millions of average Americans will be left to struggle on their own against rising health insurance premiums and deductibles without a champion in Washington.

The Ryan proposal has gotten a similarly dismissive reaction from many hard right conservatives on Twitter, who don’t seem to understand that this round of the fight against Obamacare was over the minute the Senate vote to invoke cloture on the original House CR that included defunding language in it. That refusal to recognize reality is one of the primary reasons why we remain stuck where we are, in the middle of a government shutdown that seemingly has no end, and facing the prospect of breaching the debt ceiling in just under a week.

Leaving aside these conservatives, though, it seems clear that what Ryan is offering here is a path out of the briar patch for a Republican Party that has forced the nation into a shutdown, as well as a way out for President Obama and the Democrats. NBC’s First Read puts it this way:

Yesterday, Republicans began floating proposals that had nothing to do with health care. Moreover, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan argued for “both sides” to “agree to common-sense reforms of the country’s entitlement programs and tax code.” What he called for were some of the very things that Obama and Democrats have already put on the table. Medicare means-testing? Check. Further long-term entitlement cuts (like Chained CPI?)? Check. Bipartisan tax reform? Check. Most important, however, was what Ryan DIDN’T MENTION in the op-ed: any changes to the president’s health-care law. So Ryan’s op-ed is a pretty big deal; it’s an olive branch (from its tone) and it lays a potential way out.

The big question, of course, is if conservatives will feel betrayed by this potential way out — that is, some legislative process fix that forces the White House into debt talks that will include zero real changes to health care. Already, Heritage Action’s spokesman tweeted, “Much like White House press, Paul Ryan doesn’t mention Obamacare in WSJ oped.” The Senate Conservative Fund quipped, “@PRyan Obamacare is the #1 job killer and it will bankrupt our country. Your plan does nothing to stop it.” And conservative commenatator Erick Erickson went off on Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) for reportedly criticizing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) at a closed GOP meeting. Over the past few months, we’ve had this question for Republicans and conservatives: What is victory for them? Is it some compromise entitlement changes and tax reform? If so, that outcome looks attainable. Or is it a significant rollback to the president’s health-care law? For the conservative leaders in Washington, it’s clear they would prefer a focus on debt and entitlements. For some of these conservative grassroots leaders, it’s Obamacare or bust. This is, of course, what Boehner’s been worried about all along.

In a rational world, of course, the GOP would embrace Ryan’s proposal and use it as the basis for future negotiations with the President and Senate Democrats. Quite obviously, there is no way that those negotiations could take place within the short amount of time that Congress has to act on the debt ceiling, and it would be next to largely unsustainable for the government shutdown to continue for the length of time that such negotiations are likely to take. This means that there would have to be some kind of agreement about how to handle both these issues, something I’m sure Ryan knows quite well. Whether that means passage of “clean” bills by the House and Senate, or the inclusion off short-term sweeteners such as the medical device tax that would act as a sop to the right is unclear, but it would have to happen for Ryan’s plan to work at all. It’s also obvious that Democrats aren’t just going to agree to Ryan’s ideas. Going into negotiations means that both sides are going to have to come to an agreement that they’d consider less than ideal, but that’s what reality is in a world of divided government. Republicans ought to drop the Obamacare obsession that Ted Cruz, Freedomworks and other groups have compelled them to take up over the past several months, and get on board with Ryan’s proposal, or something like it. It’s likely far from perfect, but it’s a start and you’ve got to start somewhere.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, Health Care, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    In A clarifying moment of Washington dysfunction, Greg Sargent writes:

    Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan have both published new articles that add up to a kind of closing argument against the White House as the crisis hits a climax. Both are usefully revealing. By eliding the core disagreement driving this standoff, both reveal just how weak the GOP case really is, in a manner only the most determined “both sides to blame” commentator could fail to appreciate.

  2. Moosebreath says:

    I tend to agree with Jon Chait on this:

    “The policy demands in Ryan’s op-ed are sufficiently vague that, if viewed as an opening bid, they would not completely preclude some kind of deal if he actually wants to bargain. The trouble is that Ryan’s entire history strongly suggests he does not want to deal. Every major attempt to create bipartisan budget negotiations has been quashed by Ryan. He voted against the Bowles-Simpson proposal, kiboshed a 2011 agreement between John Boehner and President Obama, then single-handedly blew up a bipartisan Senate budget deal.

    Obama’s reelection has not prompted Ryan to veer from this strategy. Last spring, the president tried to spur bipartisan negotiations by compromising with himself in his budget, including cuts to Social Security and Medicare along with reducing tax deductions. Ryan waved it away and made no counteroffer. Instead, working through what Republicans called the “Jedi Council,” Ryan crafted a strategy of using the debt ceiling to extract unreciprocated concessions. He spent much of the year repeatedly turning down a budget conference on the assumption that he could get a better deal by threatening default. He confidently assured Republicans that Obama would fold and bargain for the debt ceiling. (National Review’s Jonathan Strong two weeks ago: “I asked Ryan if he believes President Obama’s steadfast vows that he won’t negotiate over the debt ceiling. His reaction? You’ve got to be kidding me. ‘Oh, nobody believes that.’”)” (emphasis added).

    While the Democrats cannot choose the Republican negotiators, I’d feel a lot better about this if the proposal was coming from someone who actually has a pattern of following through with such negotiations.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    Given that Boehner has demonstrated he has absolutely no control over his passel of cranky wildcats, so what?

    Nothing is going to happen until the Tea Partiers are sat down against the wall and told by the Koch brothers that any further intransigence will be very, very bad for them.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    @john personna: @Moosebreath: Ryan is a sociopath who cannot and should not be trusted. I can only hope that Obama realizes this. He is a Ayn Rander who just happens to go to church – he agrees with her on everything else.

  5. john personna says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I don’t think the Teas will ever be part of the solution. The vote will have to come without them.

    The only question is whether we get to take that path before the debt deadline.

  6. Mikey says:

    @Moosebreath: Ryan may see the threat to the GOP from its far-right/Tea Party wing as sufficiently high that he’s willing to deal to keep the whole party from being put out into the dark for the foreseeable future.

    Yes, I realize the irony in a former Tea Party darling making such a pivot, and I know I’m just speculating.Still, it seems to me a guy as bright as Ryan doesn’t put stuff like this into the WSJ without a very good reason (or reasons).

    Then again, I may be responding as much to the fact guys like Erickson are ripping him for it as anything else. I mean, if that guy doesn’t like it, there must be something to it…

  7. wr says:

    How is this possibly a “way out” for the Republicans?

    The House made its case quite forcefully: Obamacare is such an affront and a threat to everything American that it’s worth shutting down the government and even defaulting on the debt to stop it from destroying the country. (Thanks, Dr. Broun!)

    Now they’re going to say, “well, okay, we’ll reopen the government if you give us a lot of other stuff we’d kind of like but can’t achieve through legitimate elections.”

    Which is an admission that everything they said about the reasons for the shutdown were a lie. That in fact all they cared about was sticking it to the ni**er in the White House. That they tanked the government and the economy not because of some higher cause more important than doing their sacred duty, but just because they felt like it.

    Does this really sound like a “way out” to you?

  8. john personna says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    [Ryan] is a Ayn Rander who just happens to go to church – he agrees with her on everything else.

    He probably has enough dissonance to believe Rand and the church both, 100%.

  9. john personna says:

    @wr:

    I wonder if you’ve seen The Republican Arcade Claw Machine
    by Ed Kilgore

    Similar vibe.

  10. humanoid.panda says:

    Anyone noticed any concessions Ryan is offering in his op-ed? Can anyone conceive of any concessions Ryan will make in exchange for what he is putting on the table? The only upside of this suggestion that it might be a base for a short range debt ceiling hike while negotiations continue. The question is what happens when the negotiations fail, and we’re back in the starting point. Most likely, the GOP flinches, but you can’t only play August 1914 that many times before someone miscalculates and everything goes BOOM.

  11. David M says:

    Isn’t this what the Democrats were offering when they wanted to go to conference to negotiate the differences between the Senate and House budgets? The only remaining issue is whether Ryan is willing to negotiate after releasing the hostage.
    .
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    And after a exhaustive check of all sources, Ryan is still a weasel, so this offer is just cover for their ongoing extortion racket.

  12. wr says:

    @john personna: Nice piece. And by an astonishing coincidence, my paternal grandfather (for whom I am named) invented that claw machine… or at least his company did. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Mutoscope_Reel_Company

  13. anjin-san says:

    @ Paul Ryan

    You can’t have my Social Security.

    Nope, you can’t have Medicare either. My mother needs hers.

    We both worked hard and paid into them for decades.

    Why don’t you get the silver spoon out of your mouth and go get a productive, real job in the private sector?

  14. Nightrider says:

    Those Republicans criticizing this clearly have lost all bearings if they are more worried about Obamacare than Medicare. Ryan’s op-ed sounds like the voice of reason compared to them, but like others I worry that even that is a mirage and only political theater.

  15. Rob in CT says:

    We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs.

    This, as part of negotiations over the budget, is not a problem (devil’s in the details, of course). This up against the threat of default? No.

    He seems to be offering increased spending now for cuts later. Note that this has often been advanced by Democrats, and Republicans typically respond with “can’t be trusted! They’ll reneg!” and such. I remember it well from our debates over a possible “grand bargain.” Our right-wing commentors were all against the idea of less austerity now + “entitlement reform” (cuts) later (like using chained CPI for SS increases). So I find it difficult to believe such a deal can really get done, even if Ryan backs it. I think it is worth trying and would have been worth trying over the past 6 months, when Ryan was refusing to go into conference over the budget. But fine, ok, whatever. ONLY if the debt ceiling is raised and a clean CR is passed to reopen the government. And I’d prefer more than 6 weeks.

    The president has embraced these ideas in budget proposals he has submitted to Congress

    I found this interesting. Ryan, in presenting his ideas as reasonable, notes that Obama has embraced some or all of them before. One wonders how many on the Right will notice that this directly conflicts with the fantasy Obama they have in their heads.

    Obviously I disagree with a number of things Ryan proposes (and more he doesn’t spell out – because I know what “tax reform” and “pro-growth” policies mean to him). But again, the Senate and the House can sit down and horsetrade. They need to. They’ve needed to all year. The Democrats tried it and got ignored for months, and then the GOP tried to blame the shutdown on them. I welcome this (apparent) change of heart, but I have little trust it will be workable unless the GOP is willing to allow House votes even if they don’t have complete agreement amongst themselves.

  16. john personna says:

    @wr:

    Mechanical synchronicity!

  17. rod mantia says:

    such fine ideas from a guy whose ideas were turned down by voters last year. wants it both ways..cant have it either way. he is part of the crowd that caused the mess..and continues to justify himself with his same tired rhetoric.

  18. Ben says:

    I still don’t see him actually offering anything. All he did was shift the Republican demands from Obamacare to the budget. He didn’t name a single specific thing that he would be willing to budge on. All he did was say “We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act”, which is so freaking vague that who knows what the hell he’s talking about. He didn’t even specify it as non-defense discretionary spending, so it’s completely meaningless.

    So once again, they’re offering nothing, and making demands. AKA: hostage-taking

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan argued for “both sides” to “agree to common-sense reforms of the country’s entitlement programs and tax code.”

    So…. Paul Ryan has thrown his own proposals under the bus? Because nothing he as ever proposed had even a hint of common sense.

  20. Steve V says:

    Shorter Ryan: OK, if you won’t defund Obamacare with a gun to your head, how about you cut Medicare and SS with a gun to your head?

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And so, the GOP begins to eat it’s own:

    It is time to defund the GOP until the GOP pushes people like Mitch McConnell out of leadership. And if they do not, there are always alternatives for conservatives.
    While the odds still favor Mitch McConnell being reelected to another term in the Senate, he will do so without our support.
    Given his behavior, there is simply no reason for conservatives to support McConnell. Regrettably there are no good choices in Kentucky in this election.

  22. PD Shaw says:

    @Rob in CT: “This, as part of negotiations over the budget, is not a problem (devil’s in the details, of course). This up against the threat of default? No.”

    Why not? Lincoln would negotiate against threat of secession and civil war. Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay and John C Calhoun negotiated under threat of secession as well. The Republicans aren’t even doing anything illegal.

  23. David M says:

    @PD Shaw:

    And you’ve now joined the “Give us what we want or we’ll tank the economy” extortionists, not your finest moment that’s for sure.

  24. mantis says:

    As @Moosebreath notes, Ryan is the architect of our current Republican extortion-based government. No one should listen to anything he has to say ever again.

  25. mantis says:

    @PD Shaw:

    The Republicans aren’t even doing anything illegal.

    Immoral, anti-democratic, and extremely destructive, but not illegal!

    Lincoln would negotiate against threat of secession and civil war.

    Yeah, and how did that all work out? But you’re right, these guys are as bad as the confederacy. Good point.

  26. Rob in CT says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Lincoln ultimately learned he had to hold his ground, actually.

    If this happens again (already did in 2011), the tactic will be used again and again and again. This must be stopped, here and now.

    Negotiation in the normal course of budgetting is fine. I don’t love the deal that will result, but thems the breaks – the GOP holds the House.

    But this tactic has to fail. Deliberately engineering crises as leverage in negotiations is a bad way to govern. It has actual negative consequences for the country.

    Beware: if this isn’t stopped now, Democrats will start using it.

    Just as the fillibuster (also not illegal) has seen a rachet effect (going from being quite rare to being commonplace over the course of ~50 years), you will see a rachet effect here. Democrats will be radicalized in response to this, and the Left wing of the party will demand that leadership start taking hostages too.

    This is potentially disasterous.

  27. anjin-san says:

    Shorter Ryan – “My ticket got crushed in the last election, now it’s time to enact my policies anyway”

  28. Rob in CT says:

    By the way, from the Chait article I and others have noted:

    National Review’s Jonathan Strong two weeks ago: “I asked Ryan if he believes President Obama’s steadfast vows that he won’t negotiate over the debt ceiling. His reaction? You’ve got to be kidding me. ‘Oh, nobody believes that.’”

    Bear this in mind. The plan, originally devised by Ryan and his “Jedi Council” (Christ, what juveniles), was to use the debt ceiling as leverage for budget cuts. Cruz threw a monkey wrench in that, bringing the PPACA into it. A lot of the Republican anger at Cruz is about *that* not that he’s being irresponsible or anything.

    Anyway, Ryan wants to get back on track to his original plan. But he’s got another complication to deal with: Obama’s unexpected refusal to cave this time. Obama learned a lesson from the 2011 episode. Republicans obviously believed it was bluster (and I’m not saying this part was nuts: many Democrats feared the same). So we have this new, somewhat concilliatory approach.

    Still, if the gun is still being held to his head, O’s gotta say no. If/when the debt ceiling threat is lifted, absolutely negotiate.

  29. john personna says:

    @PD Shaw:

    In the abstract your question might have meaning, but in the concrete, no.

    Because the clean CR is a very good offer, lying on the table.

    The deal matters more than the posturing.

    (Basically Ryan is offering to be a Gentleman Highwayman. He’ll still rob you, sure, but he won’t be as crass as that last bunch of thugs who made demands.)

  30. josh says:

    Meh. The objectors to Ryan’s trustworthiness are the mirror image of the conservatives who say Obama can’t be trusted. That’s not the point. The point is, reopen the govt and raise the debt limit to pay for the very things Ryan appropriated, and negotiate away. Will Ryan, Boehner, Cantor, et al offer increased revenue for “bipartisan tax reform” and entitlement reform? I doubt it. I don’t think a grand bargain can fly through this Congress. But feel free to actually negotiate after the hostage crisis ends.

  31. rudderpedals says:

    It takes both sides of the Capitol to restore the normal state of operations but the fixation on dragging the green lantern into the mess congress precipitated remains. Will any of these concepts pass the House, much less survive the Senate?

  32. David in KC says:

    Too bad there wasn’t an opportunity to negotiate a budget 6 months ago.

  33. Rob in CT says:

    @josh:

    Right, exactly that. I may not think Ryan is trustworthy (or rather that he can herd his fellow GOPers into an agreement), but if/when the gun is no longer pointed at the full faith and credit of the government, of course you negotiate. You have to. Even if the other guy is a lying weasel. 😉

  34. john personna says:
  35. PD Shaw says:

    @Rob in CT: “Lincoln ultimately learned he had to hold his ground, actually.”

    Actually, what evidence do you have of that? Lincoln’s ideal politician was Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser, and all through his Presidency he used conciliatory language to those who considered him the enemy, right through the Second Inaugural Address.

    Being open to negotiation does not guarantee a deal will be struck, but it offers the good will of the middle. If Lincoln had not been open to negotiation in the early months of his Presidency, he would likely not only lost the moderates in Congress, but Kentucky, and perhaps Ohio and Indiana as well. Its quite possible that being open to negotiating (but not compromising all principles) saved the Civil War, even it it did not avoid it.

    A lot of the usual progressive fire-eaters are likening this conflict to “Civil War II” or a nullification crisis, but they aren’t willing to treat the conflict as serious as those past leaders. Hyperbole without the seriousness.

  36. David M says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Why should Obama and the Democrats even consider negotiating over raising the debt ceiling?

  37. john personna says:

    @PD Shaw:

    A lot of the usual progressive fire-eaters are likening this conflict to “Civil War II” or a nullification crisis, but they aren’t willing to treat the conflict as serious as those past leaders. Hyperbole without the seriousness.

    I wouldn’t claim a bit of knowledge on the Lincoln angle, but I can comment on this crisis.

    When the Democrats float an absolutely neutral offer, an extension of prior agreements, they can stand pat, with seriousness and without hyperbole.

    And frankly, I think the Republicans can, in the harsh world of politics, be made to accept that good offer. It would be different if it were a bad offer or an unfair one. But it is not.

    Republicans will come down to the line with two choices: accept a fair offer, or drive the US into default.

  38. PD Shaw says:

    @David M: Why would they not?

    There is no justification for a President to refuse to negotiate with Congress on an important issue.

  39. john personna says:

    (Perhaps I am channeling, as others have linked, cake or debt ceiling?)

  40. john personna says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Earlier your bar was that Republicans were just “not doing anything illegal.”

    Surely it is not illegal for Obama to offer something very, very fair, and then stand pat.

  41. David M says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Congratulations on a spectacular evasion, as you did not remotely attempt to answer the question.

    I’ll rephrase it. Why should Obama and the Democrats negotiate over whether or not to cause a recession? Is NO really that odd a response.

  42. john personna says:

    Another parable …

    Looks up from desk and sees a man standing with an envelope.

    “what’s this?”

    It’s an offer on our negotiation.

    “um, could you back up and walk in again?”

    Don’t you want to open it?

    “no no, the offer doesn’t matter. it’s all about the presentation. how can i know if you were walking with confidence or slinking, smiling or frowning … all these things determine whether I can accept your offer … not what’s in the envelope.”

  43. Rafer Janders says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Actually, what evidence do you have of that?

    Um, the Civil War?

  44. Rafer Janders says:

    @PD Shaw:

    If Lincoln had not been open to negotiation in the early months of his Presidency, he would likely not only lost the moderates in Congress, but Kentucky, and perhaps Ohio and Indiana as well.

    Lincoln was open to negotiation. He was not, however, open to threats, capitulation and blackmail. “Give us what we want or the Union gets it!” was not a position he was willing to negotiate about.

  45. anjin-san says:

    @ PD Shaw

    There is no justification for a President to refuse to negotiate with Congress on an important issue.

    What issue is that? Entitlements? Obamacare? Respect?

    The GOP does not seem to have a clue about what it really wants, except to do the one thing they all agree on.

    Damage Obama, by any means possible. Even if they grave damage to our country in the process.

  46. Rafer Janders says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Why would they not?

    Because “raise the debt ceiling” is not something only Democrats want — it’s something all of America needs. It’s not a Democratic goodie, a sweetener the Republicans can offer as an inducement.

    It’s like a couple is driving along, and they decided to stop for dinner. The husband behind the wheel says “OK, let’s pick a place, but if you don’t agree to my dinner choice I’m going to ram us both into head-on traffic at high speed.” Offering not to commit murder-suicide is not typically seen as an opening good faith gambit in negotiations.

  47. Rafer Janders says:

    @PD Shaw:

    There is no justification for a President to refuse to negotiate with Congress on an important issue.

    Exactly what issue is that? Please be specific in your response, and note that “plunge the world into economic chaos” is not an acceptable answer.

  48. Rafer Janders says:

    @PD Shaw:

    There is no justification for a President to refuse to negotiate with Congress on an important issue.

    Again, what issue? Obamacare? That’s already been negotiated to death a hundred times over. The CR? Again, already negotiated multiple times and is already a compromise. So what exactly has Obama refused to negotiate about?

  49. David M says:

    Why is the debt ceiling an important issue that requires “negotiation”? Raising it is simple accounting exercise that should interest no one.

  50. mantis says:

    There is no justification for a President to refuse to negotiate with Congress on an important issue.

    Yes there is. The other side aren’t negotiators. They are extortionists. You can’t negotiate with them. It’s impossible.

  51. Rafer Janders says:

    @David M:

    Why is the debt ceiling an important issue that requires “negotiation”?

    Especially since it’s a backwards looking accounting issue. It authorizes borrowing to pay bills already incurred in the past, not spending for the future. If the GOP honestly wanted to negotiate that spending, it had its opportunity when it was debating — and in many cases voting for — the bills that authorized the spending.

  52. David M says:

    @mantis:

    There is no justification for a President to refuse to negotiate with Congress on an important issue.

    Yes there is. The other side aren’t negotiators. They are extortionists. You can’t negotiate with them. It’s impossible.

    It’s unclear whether PD Shaw doesn’t understand the difference or is unwilling to honestly assess what is going on. It is clear he’s avoiding the central issue though.

  53. Rob in CT says:

    @PD Shaw:

    And Obama, like Lincoln (only in this sense – I’m not really comparing the two generally) has been careful to be reasonable and open to compromise in order to hold the center.

    This tactical choice by the GOP is radical and dangerous enough that he’s switched gears. As Lincoln did, when he needed to. I suggest you read the Cooper Union speech.

    Seriously, PD, you’re out to lunch on this, sorry. This is straight-up extortion, with the threat being that they will trash the US credit rating/induce a recession if they don’t get their way. Not only no, but HELL NO.

  54. Steve V says:

    @PD Shaw: Another reason why not is because you know that if you strike a deal by giving concessions, Boehner will pull out of it at the last minute, blow the deal up and try to get more. (Hell, it might not even be a tactic of Boehner’s to do that but might instead be a result of his inability to get his party to go along.) As someone who’s tried to negotiate deals with people who do this, I can’t even describe how frustrating it is; a deal is never a deal.

  55. mantis says:

    Negotiating with Republicans:

    A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion
    says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”

    The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown,but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”

    Replies the scorpion: “Its my nature…”

    – Aesop

  56. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @PD Shaw:

    PD? You lose. Stop trying to give the GOP cover.They shredded them blankets a long time ago.

  57. PD Shaw says:

    @Rafer Janders: “He was not, however, open to threats, capitulation and blackmail. “Give us what we want or the Union gets it!”

    I love how this response got a thumbs up.

    Secession is a threat; it was illegal and they were blackmailing the Union. Lincoln was willing to negotiate, though not capitulate on two points. Negotiation != Capitulation.

  58. PD Shaw says:

    @Rob in CT: Rob, you offered no evidence of your claim: “Lincoln ultimately learned he had to hold his ground, actually.” Actually, I am aware of nothing in the Cooper Union speech that could be implied as opposing negotiations. A couple of weeks later, in the First Inaugural Address, Lincoln gave support for a compromise in the form of the (earlier version) of the Thirteenth Amendment. He obviously hadn’t learned to hold his ground by then.

  59. Rafer Janders says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Actually, I am aware of nothing in the Cooper Union speech that could be implied as opposing negotiations.

    Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.

    Again, your mistake is that you are confusing what the GOP is doing with negotiation. It’s not — it’s extortion.

  60. Rafer Janders says:

    @PD Shaw:

    A couple of weeks later, in the First Inaugural Address, Lincoln gave support for a compromise in the form of the (earlier version) of the Thirteenth Amendment. He obviously hadn’t learned to hold his ground by then.

    How’d that work out for him?

    Look, what you are plainly not understanding is that there came a certain point where Lincoln could compromise no further because it became apparent that the South didn’t want negotiation and a middle ground, they wanted surrender. And that Lincoln was not willing to do. When it came to fight — he fought.

  61. Rafer Janders says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Actually, I am aware of nothing in the Cooper Union speech that could be implied as opposing negotiations.

    Under all these circumstances, do you really feel yourselves justified to break up this Government unless such a court decision as yours is, shall be at once submitted to as a conclusive and final rule of political action? But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”

    To be sure, what the robber demanded of me – my money – was my own; and I had a clear right to keep it; but it was no more my own than my vote is my own; and the threat of death to me, to extort my money, and the threat of destruction to the Union, to extort my vote, can scarcely be distinguished in principle.

  62. john personna says:

    You know, in classic British crime fiction, they pay the extortionist once or twice, before deciding that they must commit murder.

    The Tea Party has been paid once or twice, on threats of shutdown or default, and so they probably shouldn’t be surprised that the other side of the house is looking for a more permanent solution.

    Yes, this carries risk as well, but I think it might be better than PD’s “give the bad men something, each time they come.”

  63. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    Yes, this carries risk as well, but I think it might be better than PD’s “give the bad men something, each time they come.”

    “And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
    But we’ve proved it again and again,
    That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
    You never get rid of the Dane.”

  64. anjin-san says:

    @ PD Shaw

    Since when are the directives of the Constitution something we negotiate?

    The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, shall not be questioned

  65. An Interested Party says:

    If the party goes Ryan’s route, the GOP will receive accolades from the media and interest groups inside the Beltway. Meanwhile, millions of average Americans will be left to struggle on their own against rising health insurance premiums and deductibles without a champion in Washington.

    BWWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

    As if Republicans really give a damn about helping people with rising health insurance premiums and deductibles….someone remind me what the GOP alternative to the ACA is…”without a champion”….that’s so incredibly rich…this Rothman character should write comedy skits…

  66. anjin-san says:

    average Americans will be left to struggle on their own against rising health insurance premiums

    The silence from the right when health insurance premiums doubled under Bush was deafening

  67. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    You know I’m half Danish, right? .. messin’ with me.

    [but yes, it was a good business while we had it.]

  68. David M says:

    Hmmmm. Still no explanation of why there should be “negotiations” over raising the debt ceiling.

  69. Rob in CT says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Let’s just say that you and I have different interpretations of what happened in with Lincoln during the run-up to the Civil war and beyond, and what’s happening now.

    I think Lincoln was a very reasonable, moderate guy who also had bedrock principles. He was willing to bend, but not break. There were lines he would not cross. His opponents made a number of demands of him, threatening secession if he refused. He refused, PD. That’s what Cooper Union was all about. He did say he was willing to keep talking and that he was willing to compromise. So is Obama. That’s also been clear. Neither man, however, was willing to negotiate with a gun to his head. Both said put down the gun we’ll talk. In today’s case, the “gun” is of course the threat of default, rather than the threat of disunion and war. I agree that it is less terrible than the threat in 1860. Congratulations, 21st century GOP, you’ve cleared the lowest bar in US politics. Pat yourselves on the back.

  70. Rob in CT says:

    Also, I think it needs to be pointed out again that the Democrats have already made concessions. Obama proposed a budget with discretionary spending of a little over $1T. Ryan & Co. had a CR proposal with spending at something like $966B. Harry Reid, apparently having conferred with Boehner and having received assurances that meeting in the middle was a go, brought in a senate funding bill at $988B.

    What’s that? Where I come from, that’s compromise. And, shockingly enough (not), Lucy pulled away the football. Again.

    I linked to the Harry Reid interview where he laid this out recently. I can dig it up again if needed. My guess, PD, is that you were unaware of this side of the story.

  71. john personna says:

    They say …

    The shutdown has stoked intraparty tension. Republicans have been harder on themselves than Democrats have during the shutdown. Thirty-five percent of Republicans held their own party responsible for the shutdown in the Ap-GfK poll, compared to 28 percent of Democrats who said the same thing. And Republicans are more than twice as likely to hold an unfavorable view of their own party as Democrats are, the Gallup poll showed. The last thing the GOP needs as it seeks to unify, expand its reach and attract new voters is anger directed inward. But that’s the reality of what it’s dealing with.

    But many find it hard to be publicly critical. That’s probably why Doug says the GOP “should listen to Ryan” rather than, “what are you, f’n crazy?”

    That’s probably too why PD contributes a weak barb against Obama.

    It’s much easier psychologically to concentrate on bits you can get behind, rather than to think of the whole picture and where you should stand.

    I must say The American Conservative has chosen a good place to stand in all this. Despite being Conservative, they didn’t wait until default-eve to call “stupid” on the Republican Congressional strategy.

  72. Rob in CT says:

    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/10/03/reid-boehners-job-is-not-as-important-as-our-country/

    Clearly agitated at the memory, Reid said the two met in early September and reached a compromise about the end-of-the month deadline to pass a spending bill. Reid said Boehner agreed to pass a $988 billion spending package, $70 billion less than what the senate leader wanted.

    “That was really hard,” Reid said, referring his decision to drop $70 billion. “My caucus really didn’t like that. We took a real hit.”

    Asked if Boehner at the time promised to deliver a clean continuing resolution, Reid said: “That’s why we did it. That’s why we agreed to that lower number.

    Nowhere have I seen our right-leaning posters acknowledge the $988B senate bill, and deal with this accusation in any way. I, for one, don’t think Reid is lying when he says that Boehner told him $988 was doable. I think Boehner wrote a check he couldn’t cash, which is a recurring theme with him. He doesn’t have control of his caucus, so he can’t actually make deals. The Tea Party group within his caucus sees the $988B as not nearly enough (either b/c they dream of lower spending, or because a compromise on spending w/o repeal of the PPACA isn’t enough for them). So here we are.

    This idea that the Democrats have been unwilling to negotiate over the budget is a lie.

    edit: Obama’s budget had discretionary spending at $1.058T. That was the Democrats opening offer. Ryan was at $966B. The Senate came in at $988B. Hmm. One side drops $70B, the other refuses to come up $20B. Now, that’s simplistic of course. If the GOP had said “zero” but had been willing to come up to $500B that wouldn’t have been reasonable, even though they “moved” a lot. But seriously, how can you really advocate shutting down the government and threatening default over $20B? This is NUTS.

  73. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Probably every single person who shows up here at OTB to say “Obama won’t negotiate” knows in his heart of hearts that he really means “Obama won’t accept additional demands.”

  74. al-Ameda says:

    One last chance (this week) to see if Ryan can win the 2012 election, and position himself for re-election in 2016.

  75. Grewgills says:

    @Rob in CT:

    The Tea Party group within his caucus sees the $988B as not nearly enough

    Worse yet, they see it as a starting point, rather than as a negotiated settlement. Now agreeing to what was a compromise is, in their minds, total capitulation.