Before details of a budget deal between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has even been announced, it is being opposed by two of the powerful right-wing groups that supported the “defund Obamacare” strategy that led to the last government shutdown — Heritage Action and FreedomWorks.
Heritage Action said in a statement on Monday that it “cannot support a budget deal that would increase spending in the near term for promises of woefully inadequate long-term reductions.”
Americans for Prosperity — the Koch-funded group that sat out of the recent shutdown drama — is also against the deal, which reportedly trades new fees and a sale of broadband spectrum in exchange for relief of at least part of the sequestration. Spending is expected to be just over $1 trillion, less than 1 percent more than the $967 billion level established under sequestration.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has also joined a group of about 20 House members who already oppose the deal that won’t be announced until at least Friday. And the right-wing media is apoplectic about the idea of giving up the sequester, which New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait calls “the frozen body of Han Solo hanging on the Republicans’ palace wall.”
The automatic budget cuts Republicans won in the 2011 debt limit crisis set spending levels for 2014 lower than Ryan envisioned in his first draconian budget, even though the fiscal cliff deal has since cut the deficit by more than $750 billion over 10 years.
With 20 votes already against the deal, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) may have the support of a majority of his caucus he usually requires before bringing any bill to the floor. But he’ll likely need Democratic votes to keep the government open. To get these votes, Republicans need to agree to relieve the sequestration. But couldn’t the Democrats be asking for more?
For instance, shouldn’t they be demanding that emergency unemployment insurance be extended?
Both The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent and Salon‘s Brian Beutler assert that Democrats fear the House GOP could pass a continuing resolution at the sequester levels. This would leave the Senate in the position of accepting that bill or potentially being blamed for a government shutdown.
The question then becomes, would it hurt the Democrats to hold fast in defense of those who have been out of work for more than 26 weeks? There isn’t much polling that suggests the public favors extending unemployment now. But we do know from the last shutdown and the debt limit crisis of 2011 that these standoffs hurt both sides.
So now the question is: Who would be hurt more?
President Obama — coming off two months where the website for his signature legislative accomplishment failed to work for millions of people — has seen his job approval hit new lows and his disapproval hit new highs. But he never has to run for office again.
A new Marist poll shows that 74 percent — about 3 in 4 Americans — disapprove of the job House Republicans are doing. House Democrats’ approval is about 10 percent higher than the GOP, while their disapproval is about 10 percent lower.
The Republican Party in general is also testing historic popularity with its approval ratings consistently just over about half of the president’s, which is lingering in the low-to-mid 40s.
When Republicans shut down the government over Obamacare, their position of stopping the law cold had never been embraced by the public, who mostly want to see the law implemented with changes to make it either more or less liberal. Democrats, on the other hand, would be arguing for a policy that helps those being punished by the economy and are still seeking employment.
Making a stand against cuts now would give Democrats a chance to make the case for helping those still afflicted by the economy while also pointing out that the deficit is falling rapidly — down $61 billion in the last two months alone.
After the last shutdown, Republicans have a vested interest in at least appearing to be interested in governing. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is basing his case for re-election around the idea that he’s a dealmaker. He’s even vowed that there will not be another government shutdown.
The far right has succeeded in moving the goalposts on spending to the point that we’re still cutting as millions are out of work and our deficit is shrinking rapidly. They’ve done this with tactics like opposing deals before they’re even announced.
If Democrats took the same sort of firm stand in favor of the unemployed, at least voters would know what they stand for.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr