Republicans must prioritize on the budget
Here’s the bottom line on the next budget showdown: There will be a deal – if Republicans can get over their “principled” aversion to compromise. If they want a deal, there is one to be had.
After all, almost no one likes the status quo – sequestration. So it shouldn’t be hard to find something more appealing to both sides.
My Washington Post colleague Greg Sargent noticed that some Republicans worry that budget negotiations are a “political trap” because Democrats might insist on tax increases. They have the same fears about the farm bill and immigration: Just entering into negotiations with Democrats, Tea Party radicals seem to believe, can end only with Republicans selling them out.
In reality, however, the budget situation is exactly the sort of thing over which two parties should be able to reach agreement, even if the “political middle” has largely disappeared. It is no harder for two parties to agree on a midpoint between zero and $1 trillion than it would be for them to agree to a midpoint between $495 billion and $505 billion. All it takes is the willingness to strike a deal.
Among Republicans, the problem isn’t just hostility to negotiations, although that is a big problem.
Republicans do not seem willing to do the hard work of articulating their priorities.
In terms of the budget, this would require acknowledging that their budget numbers don’t add up, and that they can probably get deficit reduction or spending cuts or prevent any tax increases, but that they can’t strike a deal if they’re unwilling to budge on all three. They must prioritize.
This is an underappreciated part of what makes the GOP a “post-policy” party.
From everything that’s been reported, however, Democrats are ready to deal if and when they have a partner. We’ll just have to wait and see whether they have one.