He was, of course, promptly laughed out of the room.
Steve Benen says it best:
We have a Democratic Senate and a Republican House, but the notion of an equitable, 50-50 split is thought of as fanciful nonsense backed only by liberal extremists. When Republicans demand a 100-0 split in their favor, meanwhile, and failure to do so will mean they cause a recession on purpose, this is somehow just routine and predictable.It's actually worse than Benen says: out of the two elected branches, the Democratic party controls 1.5. If we go by that, the eventual split should be, if anything, closer to 70-30 in favor of the Democrats. But right now, any negotiated outcome to the debt ceiling standoff seems likely to favor Republicans by something more like 90-10.
I suspect if a senator suggested a 100-0 split in the other direction — no job-killing spending cuts, only tax increases — GOP officials would simply faint, en masse, at the very idea.
In his post above, Ezra Klein attributes the unevenness of the negotiations to a debate that has "shifted far to the right." And that might part of the reason. But it's only part.
The main reason the debt ceiling debate favors the Republicans so heavily is because it's not a traditional debate or negotiation at all, where both sides want something different, and they each compromise in order to get as much of what they want as possible. Instead, it's very much a hostage situation. The Republicans want something (spending cuts), and in order to get it they've taken a hostage (America's economic stability). The Democrats want nothing in particular, other than to prevent Republicans from blowing up the economy.
Here's the thing about hostage situations: they're all-or-nothing affairs. They're binary. So long as the hostage-taker controls the hostage, he has all the leverage. Because nobody is going to negotiate for the life of half a hostage, the hostage-taker can continually make demands and the more reasonable people in the room are forced to consider them. On the other hand, as soon as the hostage-taker loses his captives, the negotiation's over. There's no reason left to talk to a hostage-taker without any hostages.
So really, there are only two outcomes to any hostage situation.
- The guy with the gun gets what he wants: the plane to Fiji, the million dollars in unmarked, nonsequential bank notes, the full pardon and release of nine members of the Asian Dawn movement in Sri Lanka.
- The SWAT team comes through the front door and it's game over, man. Hopefully, no one shoots the hostages before this happens.
So really, it's little surprise that so far, negotiations have favored the Republicans. If it were any other way, the Democrats would be playing them for suckers. After all, what would the Democrats even say? "If you don't give us tax hikes, we won't raise the debt ceiling -- just like you're threatening to do yourselves." It's just not credible. In these things, concessions can only go one direction.
But it's a dangerous game for the GOP to play. Because if they lose, they're left with nothing. And if it goes right down to the wire, and it turns out they're not willing to pull the trigger, they're left with nothing. And if Democrats find some way to take the hostage away from them, they're left with nothing. Look, I've seen the movies -- these things never end well for the bad guys. Let's just hope it ends alright for the hostage.