Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a “new” offer for House Republicans: Fund the government, and then we can negotiate.
The Nevada Democrat sent House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, a letter Wednesday pledging to put everything on the table during budget talks, including tax reform and health care. But he won’t name conferees unless the House gives the Senate a “clean” resolution to temporarily fund government at current levels.
“He doesn’t even have to vote for it,” Reid said shortly after the two leaders spoke on the phone. “He can vote against it.”
But Boehner immediately shrugged off Reid’s offer.
“Offering to negotiate only after Democrats get everything they want is not much of an offer,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
There is a way to respond to this, and it’s exactly what Boehner and the GOP majority is doing – namely, presenting resolutions to fund parts of the government at a time.
If Reid doesn’t want to pass those, then it’s his fault the National Institutes of Health isn’t funded. Or the VA. Or any of the other parts of the government which are currently shut down because of this impasse.
One begins to get the sense that while, yes, there are polls showing the public griping at the Republicans over the shutdown, the longer this goes and the more the public gets a chance to see the House pass bills which would alleviate the problem things will get worse for Reid and his pal in the White House.
Because if he refuses to move bills to partially fund the government, the public is going to see him as inflexible and unreasonable. If he moves them and they fail in the Senate, it will be on a party-line vote that they fail. And that means the Mary Landrieus, Joe Manchins, Mark Pryors and Kay Hagans of the world, who are all in major jeopardy of getting beat next year, will have voted against keeping the National Parks open for reasons unrelated to the operation of the National Parks.
So that would be Reid basically sabotaging himself as the Majority Leader.
But what could be even worse for Reid – and Obama – is if the bills pass thanks to Democrats crossing the aisle to vote for them. At that point, Reid can’t say his caucus is united. And Obama can’t really veto them because if he does, he absolutely cuts the throats of the Landrieus and Manchins.
That would be Reid and Obama losing on the shutdown, because the larger the share of the government which is funded and reopened, the more isolated the fight over Obamacare. And since the public has never hated Obamacare more than it does right now, and the rollout of that plan is an unmitigated mess, it’s going to be difficult to get the country to punish Republicans in the House for not agreeing to fund your unpopular abuse of government.
The only way Reid can win this is to outlast the GOP. If he was smart, he’d offer up something that would allow Boehner to save face and capitulate. Like the medical device tax, for example, or the Congressional exemption.
But this stonewalling business? Stupid. It sets the stage for a long siege, which Reid and Obama will lose. Republicans already took the heat for the shutdown in the polls. From here on out, they’re going to be the ones sending funding bills Reid will be rejecting. And when Steve Palazzo, Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert are out at the Washington Mall helping World War II vets break through barricades on a sidewalk that the White House ordered put up, whatever favorable opinion Obama was going to derive from this is going to evaporate.
Not to mention the fact that some 85 percent of the government is still open, and the public really isn’t going to notice too much of an inconvenience. And that means the whole thing is going to be considered a joke…