Advancing a Free Society

Bad cop, worse cop

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell are effectively maximizing their leverage in the ongoing appropriations negotiation.

Republicans did good work over the past month emphasizing that they don’t want the government to shut down.  In doing so they created a political and press contrast with the chest-thumping Republicans of the 1995 shutdown.

  • 1995 Republicans: “We’re going to shut down the government and like it!”
  • 2011 Republican leaders:  “We don’t want the government to shut down, but if Democrats continue to demand too much spending, we regret that it may be unavoidable.”

If negotiations implode, blame for a shutdown would be more evenly allocated than it was in 1995.  This communications foundation means Republican negotiators have less reason to fear political catastrophe if negotiations fail, and they can therefore demand more on substance.

The two dimensions of these FY11 appropriations negotiations are money and duration.  Both sides want a long duration (seven months, through the end of this fiscal year) if they get their way on money.  Republican leaders place less of a priority on a full-year extension, so they can drive for a better deal on the spending level.  If the Administration and Democrats insist on a seven-month bill, Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell can make them pay for it.  Another short-term CR is painful for both sides, but apparently more so for Democrats.  This gives Republicans leverage.  Recent press coverage suggests that another short-term CR is quite possible.

Continue reading Keith Hennessey…

(photo credit: Robert Thivierge)