Well, what do you make of that? It just proves once again that little is new under the sun. Democrat’s message-maker and message enforcer, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, took the airwaves almost at the same time that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSC) members were exchanging serious offers and counter-offers.
Schumer’s message, of course, was that the JSC would fail in its work and that failure was because Republicans just wouldn’t listen to any talk of raising taxes.
In our last dispatch from the JSC front, we mentioned that it was about this time in negotiations that someone would rush to the microphones and begin to place blame. Blame-placer par excellence Schumer swept in and revealed the worst kept secret in town—unwilling to make any concessions on structural spending changes, especially on entitlements, Democrats now seek to absolve themselves of any guilt.
Schumer was wrong that Republicans didn’t offer tax increases. The GOP’s latest offer crossed the “great line in the sand” and began a discussion of revenue increases. In return, Republicans (perhaps naively) expected a counter-offer from the Democrats. This is normally how negotiations proceed. But, fearful that his party would lose the ability to use Medicare as a weapon against Republicans 11 months from now, Schumer went on the offensive–this kind of potential progress had to stop.
Roll Call elevated the Schumer story to the top spot in Tuesday’s edition, as did Politico. Other reporters simply asked (and with a wink), “Why do you think Schumer would do that?” (The Schumer sortie came after the weekend’s Washington Post editorial page concentrated on the failure of the GOP to agree to increasing revenues.)
Schumer, one might recall, was the Senator who strongly advised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to reject Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad’s budget resolution earlier this year. And, in a Democratic Senate Policy Lunch earlier this year, Reid did just that.
Now comes a tipping point for the JSC membership. The media glare and the world market focus on Europe will begin to fade once the European Central Bank resolves the Italian dilemma. World attention will gradually drift away from events in North Africa, as those nations stumble towards some semblance of stability. Then, markets and other nations will focus on America—its policies, its leadership, its strength. Can the JSC, Congress, and the President anticipate the coming shift, or will they simply be swept under by it?
Ironically, Schumer’s comments came just after House Speaker John Boehner said on national television that Republicans were willing to accept an increase in revenues.
Prediction of failure, before the fact, carries risks. Some voters may think that Schumer and his colleagues want failure. If Democrats begin to be perceived as the party of “no,” taking that mantle away from the Republicans, then their electoral problems multiply. With a President clearly either frustrated by, bored by, or confused by all the budget dramas so far this year, and the Democrats’ major message-maker predicting failure, Republicans may begin to right a ship that has been listing badly in recent months.
It will be interesting to see if President Obama shortens his trip to Bali and elsewhere in order to return to Washington, D.C., before the November 23rd deadline for JSC action. It reminds one of the European political leaders earlier this year insisting on taking their summer vacations while the European Union confronted its most serious problem since its creation.
In light of the fact that most of those European political leaders now have resigned, pledged to resign, or seen their governments crack underneath them, it might be wise for the President to keep his flight plans flexible the last 10 days of November.