Earlier this weekend, a compromise proposal by Sen. Collins to end, or at least postpone, the fiscal showdown failed to gain traction due to lack of support from Democrats. Collins is the quintessential “moderate Republican,” the alleged disappearance of whom from the Senate causes such hand-wringing in MSM circles.
Collins’ proposal would have extended government funding for six months and boosted the debt ceiling through the end of January. By way of a fig leaf for Republicans, it also would have delayed a medical device tax in the health care law for two years and instituted an income verification requirement for qualifying for Obamacare subsidies.
Democrats rejected the plan not because of the Obamacare fig leaf, but because they want more money for the government. Collins’ proposal would have retained the spending levels established by the sequester, though it would have provided the government with much-needed flexibility in spending this money.
During a heated exchange with Collins on the Senate floor, Patty Murray, No. 4 in the Senate leadership, said it is unacceptable to lock in cuts at the sequestration spending levels. She took this approach even though the “clean CR” Democrats have been demanding would have locked in those cuts.
From a political standpoint, Murray’s position makes sense. The Dems don’t want the fiscal showdown to end because they know they are winning in the court of public opinion and, in all likelihood, will continue to win. So why halt the dispute without getting higher spending levels in exchange?
There’s a price to picking a fight you don’t win (and, in all likelihood, weren’t going to win). The Democrats, predictably, are trying to exact that price.
What should the Republicans do? I don’t see how they can accept higher spending levels. So they will have to let the dispute continue as we approach the October 17 (i.e., this Thursday) debt ceiling expiration date.
Presumably, there will be other attempts to craft a compromise. For now, though, don’t expect the Dems to behave as if they don’t have the whip hand.