The current Republican talking point is that President Obama refuses to negotiate, or that he is unwilling to meet with Republican leaders and “have a conversation.” So the perception is that the current deadlock in Congress is the product of stubbornness on both sides.
First of all, negotiations usually involve a quid pro quo – a deal in which two parties agree to make mutually beneficial policy concessions, but that is not the case here. Republicans are issuing demands simply for agreeing to fund the government, or for merely authorizing the government to pay the bills it’s accrued. These are matters that Congress usually addresses as a matter of course; they are not special favors that serve the Democrats’ agenda. In fact, Democrats only want to fund the federal government at sequester levels, which under ordinary circumstances should please conservatives.
So we are at an impasse in Congress because a minority of House Republicans are demanding concessions from Democrats in exchange for voting on something that has always been done on a bipartisan basis and without debate.
Second, Republicans are using the debt limit controversy to point out that our annual deficits are out of control and should be reduced. That’s fine – but the time for a budget debate is when a spending bill is up before Congress, not when 800,000 federal workers are furloughed and the full faith and credit of the United States is at stake.
I understand that Republicans are in a difficult position. They entered into this ordeal by seeking to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act. Now that this goal is beyond reach, they need something – anything – to walk away from this with some semblance of a victory. But were President Obama and Democrats to cave on this issue, it would set a dangerous precedent by which the minority party always will have the option to use the debt limit to demand something from the other party. This is not how our government should work.