Perhaps Barack Obama really does want to find a way out of the impasse after all. According to Jonathan Strong at National Review, aides from the White House have taken over the negotiations on a deal to raise the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown, and Harry Reid isn’t invited to the party:
Back before the government shutdown and before the fault lines of the current situation became clear, many Republicans viewed Reid, not Obama, as their most likely negotiating partner on both the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling. As evidenced by their public bickering over who wronged whom in the 2011 debt-ceiling fight this week, Speaker John Boehner and Obama do not have a history of fruitful negotiations.
As time wore on, though, Reid made clear not only that he himself wouldn’t budge, at all, on either debate, but that he was actively taking steps behind the scenes – like sidelining Vice President Joe Biden from any role – to ensure Obama toed the line as well.
Reid took several steps that unnerved Republicans who began to fear his healthy self-esteem had turned to hubris, among them his decision to leak e-mails from Boehner’s top aides.
“We thought we would be dealing with Reid, now it looks like we’re going to have to deal with Obama,” says one House GOP aide, describing the situation.
These days, it’s Obama aides interfacing with Boehner’s and Appropriations chairman Hal Rogers’s aides, with no one from Reid’s camp actively involved.
The Washington Post reports that the negotiations have switched to the White House, although more tacitly:
President Obama opened talks with House Republicans on Thursday about their plan to lift the federal debt limit through late November, raising hopes that Washington would avert itsfirst default on the national debt. …
In the Senate, top Republicans began crafting a proposal that would reopen the government and raise the federal debt limit for as long as three months — an approach closer to the terms Obama has set to end the standoff.
The developments meant that bipartisan negotiations were suddenly underway on two separate tracks Thursday after weeks of stalemate. Major questions remain, however, about the path ahead.
Both sides described Obama’s evening session with House Republicans as a “good meeting” and said talks will continue.
“The president’s goal remains to ensure we pay the bills we’ve incurred, reopen the government and get back to the business of growing the economy,” the White House said in a statement.
Perhaps the White House took some advice from Charlie Cook at National Journal. Yesterday, the political analyst pointed out that if the White House wants a solution, they have to allow their opponents to find their way to one — and that Reid’s insistence on no negotiations was going to lead to disaster:
If your intent is to decimate your opposition and win at all costs, that’s one thing. But if your intention is to resolve a conflict that has enormous consequences for our national economy and finances, you have to give your opposition a place to land, a way to settle and save face.
McGregor makes an important point: “Right now, however bad the shutdown may be for many people, neither Democratic [nor] Republican leaders yet feel immediate pain from the fallout. Democrats know the polls show that Republicans are getting hit worse by the government’s closure. And Republicans aren’t yet getting heat from constituents for their hard-line positions. But at some point, a showdown—or worse, the potential of a disastrous default—could become so painful that it drives people to the negotiation table.”
The disclosures earlier this week that families of military personnel killed in Afghanistan might not be getting the immediate death benefits owed to them, including money for funeral expenses, could help spark the necessary citizen outrage.
One of the things that helped precipitate the showdown is that many Democrats refuse to acknowledge that the enormous and hugely complicated health care law actually might have problems that need to be legislatively addressed. One Democratic House member told me a couple of months ago that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had made it very clear to her members that she did not want to hear any talk of cracking open the Affordable Care Act to address some of its shortcomings. Polls have consistently shown that while some Americans steadfastly want Obamacare repealed and others want to keep it exactly the way it is, a plurality want to see it—choose a word—repaired, fixed, or modified. Yet few on Capitol Hill, on either side, seem willing to utter those words.
The rollout of ObamaCare may have changed minds on that point. It’s obviously crashing, and the scope of its disaster will continue to expand. Democrats have no choice but to “crack open” ObamaCare now.
This leaves just one question. When will Joe Biden come out of hiding? Is it time to release the Kracken, now that Reid appears sidelined?