Friday, July 26, 2013

My fantasy flashes in the news, flickers, fades

I have fantasized from time to time that Obama would pull a Jan Brewer and refuse to sign any appropriations bills that don't shut off the sequester. Or the (earlier) Chris Christie variant: that he will sit back, crack open a beer, and wait for Congress to send him a budget he can sign.

Therefore, this peek at alleged White House deliberations by the Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb and Paul Kane set my heart a bit aflutter:
White House officials also are discussing a potential strategy to try to stop the sequestration cuts from continuing, the lawmakers and Democrats said. Under this scenario, the president might refuse to sign a new funding measure that did not roll back the sequester.
But reality came back quick:
No decision has been made.
And this sounds more like Obama:

But some of Obama’s top economic advisers fear that they may not be able to stop what they consider damaging cuts without a sharper confrontation, the sources said. Other advisers are urging a more cautious course, saying it would be better for Obama to seek a more targeted agreement that would increase funding for a smaller set of priorities.
Whereas this sounds like a really terrible idea:
Several Democrats suggested that they might accept an interim spending measure to keep the government open into November, delaying the fight until just around the time of another looming deadline: raising the statutory limit on federal borrowing. The exact deadline has not been determined by the Treasury Department, but the Congressional Budget Office recently estimated it would come in October or November. 
That is exactly backwards. Obama has said unequivocally that he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling, and he must stick to that or he will get rolled again.  The budget battle must be separated from the debt ceiling battle, not conjoined again. A government shutdown is the right fight to have, the right consequence for GOP intransigence and insistence on austerity that every reputable economist agrees is crimping the recovery. Framing up a fresh confrontation at the debt ceiling expiration, in contrast, repeats two past Obama negotiating errors: enabling the hostage-taking in summer 2011, which brought us the sequester, and kicking the sequester can in January 2013, which brought the March cave-in setting the sequestration cuts in motion.

This, too, brings on hot flashbacks of hard-wired Dem behavior:
“There’s a real cost to keeping the sequester in place,” Van Hollen said in an interview, but he added that the options Democrats will consider in September will depend on public response.

“There is evidence that the pressure from the sequester is continuing to build,” he said. “I think the viable options will depend in part on what the public mood is at the time.”
Way to draw a line and stick to it, guys.

Hope springs eternal that Obama will choose his ground -- defensible ground -- for a full-bore budget showdown with the GOP.  I continue to believe that his best chance was last January.  But maybe, just maybe, he'll prevail in the long game in his own way.

In the runup to the last election, Obama repeatedly expressed the hope that his victory would "break the fever" of GOP intransigence. That's praying, not playing.  Nothing will break in the natural course of events. What Obama needs to break is the GOP.

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