You Can’t Negotiate With Self Deception: The GOP’s Game of Political Chicken

Ezra Klein sums up the increasingly likely government shutdown in two paragraphs :

If the Republicans just wanted negotiations, the Obama administration would be happy to oblige them. The White House, after all, has repeatedly said they’re willing to negotiate with the Republicans over the deficit, over jobs, over sequestration, and much else. Republicans haven’t been interested in those kinds of negotiations for some time. Indeed, after the fiscal cliff, Speaker John Boehner told Republicans that he was finished negotiating directly with Obama.

The reason Republicans aren’t interested in those negotiations is they don’t want to give anything up to get the things they want. That’s why they like negotiating over the debt ceiling: Since they also don’t want the the U.S. to lose its creditworthiness and fall back into financial crisis, raising the debt ceiling is not actually giving anything up. It’s releasing a hostage they never wanted to shoot.

It’s been clear for sometime that the ongoing debates in Washington have absolutely nothing to do with government spending or raising the debt ceiling as many conservatives would like to believe. If Republicans were concerned about on going government spending , the concessions they would seek would revolve around their proposals to reduce the deficit. Of course there are no proposals of any kind coming from the House GOP and the only demand John Boehner has asked for involve the defunding and delay of Obamacare.

But a look deeper into the politics of the House GOP reveals that the impending government shutdown isn’t even about Obamacare care as much as its about the political divisions within the Tea Party, House GOP.

House Speaker John Boehner has tried to convince conservatives to abandon their idea to use the threat of a government shutdown to force President Obama to defund Obamacare, telling them instead to wait and use the debt limit to force Obamacare concessions.

In a conference call with House Republicans last week, Boehner said they would push Obama on the debt limit, but not the continuing resolution to fund the government. Some weren’t pleased, The National Review‘s Jonathan Strong reports, and the call turned “ugly.” Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, for example, “told Boehner to ‘go back to the drawing board.'”

The New York Times also chimes in:

Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio faced a critical decision this weekend: Accept a bill passed by the Senate on Friday to keep the government funded and the health care law intact and risk a conservative revolt that could threaten his speakership, or make one more effort to undermine the president’s signature domestic initiative and hope that a shutdown would not do serious political harm to his party.

With no guarantee that Democrats would help him, he chose the shutdown option. The House’s unruly conservatives had more than enough votes to defeat a spending bill that would not do significant damage to the health care law, unless Democrats were willing to bail out the speaker. And Democrats showed little inclination to alleviate the Republicans’ intraparty warfare.

It’s important to take note of the actual causes of this government shutdown instead of the apparent causes. The predominant strategy of Republicans in Congress over the past two decades has been hostage negotiations over policy negotiations. From their record number of filibusters to their ardent refusal to approve the President’s nominee’s for key administrative positions, Republicans have all but abandoned their legislative duties in lieu of childish obstructionism. While it’s tempting to deal with false equivalencies and place blame on both Democrats and Republicans, the actions of both parties does not bare this out in truth. No where is this more evident than in the chambers of House Republicans where inter party divisions are currently holding the entire government hostage.

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