Imagine a man in prison. He wants out, and he figures he can either pay off the guard and walk out the front door, or start the long, painful process of burrowing through the back wall. Our prisoner doesn't want to spend the money, so he starts chipping away with a spoon. But he soon realizes that the guard might notice him. He pays off the guard, who leaves for the afternoon... and then the prisoner continues to dig with his spoon.
Say hello to the congressional Democrats.
Let's take a step back. First, there was the debt ceiling standoff. Republicans refused to raise the ceiling until they'd extorted substantive spending cuts from Democrats. Democrats would not even consider spending cuts until Republicans agreed to some form of revenue increase.
That came to a head after Republicans rejected increasingly generous offers from President Obama because they included increasingly minimal tax increases. Negotiations melted down, Eric Cantor staged a virtual coup of the House leadership, and Mitch McConnell offered a new plan: the Republicans would capitulate on substance, but would force onerous political requirements on the Democrats. Namely, Obama would have to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling -- the Washington Post and Politico.com tells me this means he'd "own it" -- and Democrats would be forced to cast a vote in approval of him doing so no fewer than six times over the next two years. It was a nakedly political solution, but hey, at least it preserved the United States of America for future generations. Which is more than anyone could say for the Cantor Plan, backed by a huge chunk of House Republicans.
But then, someone figured out that those same House Republicans probably wouldn't vote for the McConnell solution. Now, I'm just some guy with a blog, but that doesn't seem to me like too much of a problem. There are, after all, well over a hundred House Democrats, virtually all of whom would very much like to see the debt ceiling raised without major spending cuts. Pair those Democrats with Boehner and like-minded Republicans -- you know, the not-crazy ones who understand that not raising the debt ceiling by August 2 means some kind of default, and default is bad bad bad (these people do exist, right? please tell me they exist) -- and the McConnell plan stands to pass.
Unfortunately, that's not how people in DC think. In DC, the solution to all problems, all the time, is to give concessions to the right. So the new proposal on the table is as follows: the McConnell plan, combined with $1.5 trillion in spending cuts, and no revenue.
Excuse me, but what on earth?
Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't the entire point of the McConnell plan to circumvent the deadlock over spending cuts? Republicans won't do tax increases, and Democrats won't accept cuts without extra revenue. What we have here is the worst of both worlds: Republicans get spending cuts without tax increases, and Republicans get to impose a heavy political cost on the heads of Democrats. Why in the world would Democrats agree to this? If they're going to throw in the towel on spending cuts, then don't use the McConnell plan -- just raise the debt ceiling the old-fashioned way! With a one-time, lump-sum, bipartisan vote! Don't give out $1.5 trillion in freebies!
Honestly, nothing says "Democratic negotiating strategy" quite like giving the other side their demands in order to entice them to make the ugly compromise you'd prefer. Smart, guys. No, really, just brilliant.
Anyway, congressional Democrats are nothing if not spineless, and Obama's debt ceiling strategy has been amazingly dimwitted, so I can only assume this "compromise" will pass.