Sunday, December 02, 2012

Negotiating Involves More Than Saying NO

There are supposed to be negotiations going on in Washington over the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the budget cuts that will automatically happen at the end of this year (assuming nothing is done). At least the media is saying there are negotiations happening. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are happy about the coming tax raises and cuts.

The Democrats want to continue the tax cuts for 98% of the population (those households making under $250,000 a year) and want to protect Social Security and Medicare (the so-called entitlements). The Republicans want to also extend the tax cuts for the rich (the top 2%), or at least get huge cuts in Social Security and Medicare and discretionary social programs helping hurting Americans. The "negotiations" the media says are happening are supposedly an attempt to find some common ground on which a compromise can be reached.

The problem is that there is no real negotiating going on. The president has made specific proposals and the Republicans have said NO (as usual). That is all that has happened. The Republicans have made no specific proposals at all. They just continue to talk in generalities (mostly to the media). They say they want cuts in entitlements, but they refuse to say what should be cut or by how much. The same is true for their desire to cut social programs funded by the budget for discretionary spending. They won't say what they want cut, and by how much.

As for the tax cuts, the Republicans say they won't agree to raising the top tax rates. They keep talking about increasing revenue by eliminating some deductions. But once again, they refuse to say what deductions they want to limit or eliminate. That is just stalling. I think they know that any proposals they could make would be very unpopular with the public -- a public that poll after poll has shown wants higher taxes on the rich, cuts to discretionary spending that are fair and not borne only by the poor and disadvantaged, and the protection of Social Security and Medicare benefits.

So the Republicans are repeatedly rejecting proposals by the president, and refusing to make any specific proposals of their own. I think they hope they can convince the public that it is the president who won't negotiate, but so far they are having no luck in doing that. And the president is now preparing to take his case to the American people, and expose the GOP lies and stalling tactics.

And it's not just the president who's getting tired of the games being played by the Republican leadership. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is also getting a bit tired of the Republican games. The Senate has already passed a bill that would cut taxes for the bottom 98% of Americans while allowing taxes for the top 2% to go back up to Clinton administration levels. But Republican House leaders have refused to let the Senate bill come up for a vote. Pelosi now says if the senate bill is not brought to the House floor for a vote in the next week, she will try to force a vote by using a tactic known as a discharge petition.

A discharge petition requires the signatures of 218 House members (which means 20 Republicans would have to agree to it). Regardless of how it comes out, trying to use a discharge petition is a no-lose situation for the Democrats. If they are able to bring it to the floor and the bill passes, they can take credit for cutting taxes for 98% of Americans. If the Republicans vote against the bill and defeat it, or don't let it come up for a vote, they will have to take the blame for taxes being raised on most Americans.

It looks like both the president and the congressional Democrats are beginning to play some political hardball. It's about time. They have let the Republican stall and obstruct for far too long.


  1. Well, Obama is making proposals in public, while both Democrats and Republicans are making proposals and counter-proposals in committies and in inter-party meetings.

    This is not entirely inappropriate, since Obama is not a member of Congress and should not properly be included in the negotiations which occur within Congress. Obama is a figurehead for his party and is acting as a figurehead.

    The issue is not between Obama and Congress or between Obama and Republicans, it is between the two parties within Congress.


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