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Why 'negotiations' are no longer a credible option

Republican pollsters have clearly told GOP lawmakers to say the same thing over and over again: "All we want is to talk to Democrats and work out a solution. Why won't Democrats negotiate?" Speaker Boehner, for example, used the word "negotiate" seven times during a fairly brief ABC interview yesterday.

Perhaps now is a good time for a recap of the measure that's currently pending.

This proposal was approved by the Democratic-led Senate and it's been endorsed by the White House. It's 100% in line with what House Republican leaders endorsed a month ago, and it gives GOP lawmakers 100% of what they said they wanted as part of the budget process. If the House were to pass this today, the government would reopen tomorrow.

But the House isn't permitted to vote on this. Boehner claims it won't pass, but (a) vote-counting isn't exactly high on this guy's list of talents; and (b) he's refused to test his assessment. The Speaker could bring this bill to the floor today and prove how right he is, but to ensure the far-right remains happy, Boehner is committed to not allowing a vote, apparently because he assumes it would pass relatively easily.

Now, I imagine my conservative friends would look at the above image and balk. "That's not fair," they'll say, "because Democrats would get the end of the shutdown." But that's a break from the Republican line -- GOP officials say they neither wanted nor like the shutdown, so its end would hardly represent a "win" for Democrats. Ending the shutdown, according to Republicans themselves, would benefit everyone, not just one side of the political divide.

And yet, despite the one-sided nature of the pending resolution, Republicans insist the existing compromise -- grudgingly accepted by Democrats -- just isn't good enough. They want more. They say they need more. In fact, the current resolution is so inadequate that the government must remained closed until the party that won the elections agrees to give the party that lost the elections even more -- even if they're no longer sure what "more" might be.

In fact, I'm fascinated by Republicans who seem eager to end the shutdown suggest Democrats should just throw Boehner a face-saving bone and let this fiasco come to an end.

Byron York had an interesting chat with an unnamed House Republican.

[T]he lawmaker thought Senate Democrats, and Majority Leader Harry Reid, would make some sort of concession on a lesser aspect of Obamacare. "I do think, though, when Boehner sent over delay and [repeal of the] medical device tax, I think he thought he'd probably get back medical device, and that would have probably been enough right there," the congressman said. But Reid and the Democrats steadfastly refused to consider any change to Obamacare, surprising Republicans again....When Boehner lowered his demands to include a delay for just the individual mandate — not for all of Obamacare -- Republicans thought Democrats would be open to that more modest proposal.

"Instead, it's no, we're not going to negotiate, we're not going to negotiate, we're not going to negotiate," the lawmaker said. "Which means effectively you're going to try to humiliate the Speaker in front of his conference. And how effective a negotiating partner do you think he'll be then? You're putting the guy in a position where he's got nothing to lose, because you're not giving him anything to win."

Nothing, that is, except everything -- literally, everything -- he asked for just five weeks ago.

I find the perspective of the lawmaker York quoted completely incoherent. Republicans were "surprised" when Democrats wouldn't consider changes to the Affordable Care Act as part of an extortion strategy? Giving the Speaker what he said he wanted -- and what could likely pass with bipartisan support -- is an effort at "humiliation"?

Even if Democrats relented and agreed to scrap the medical-device tax -- a solution that would add billions to the deficit to make the GOP happy -- think about the precedent. As Kevin Drum explained over the weekend, Republicans have effectively made this impossible.

By the end of September, the Republican strategy had become crystal clear: demand unceasing concessions from Democrats at every opportunity without offering anything in return and without any negotiation. A month ago, Democrats might have shrugged over the device tax. Today, they know perfectly well what it would mean to let it go. It means that when the debt ceiling deadline comes up, there will be yet another demand. When the 6-week CR is up, there will be yet another. If and when appropriations bills are passed, there will be yet another.... There simply won't be any end to the hostage taking. As their price for not blowing up the country, there will be an unending succession of short-term CRs and short-term debt limit extensions used as leverage for picking apart Obamacare -- and everything else Democrats care about -- piece by piece.

There's no way that any political party anywhere in the world would willingly put itself in this position.

That Republicans find this confusing suggests they're simply not ready for the responsibilities they've been given.