When it comes to understanding the negotiating postures of the congressional caucuses, the playing field isn't exactly level. On the one side we see Republican lawmakers who insist on undermining the Affordable Care Act -- somehow, some way, for some reason -- just for the sake of doing so.
For GOP leaders, recent developments are simply outrageous -- why won't Democrats ignore the election results, the public good, and their own principles, and simply give the party that lost the elections what they want? What's so unreasonable about that?
On the other side, we see Democratic lawmakers who ... aren't making any demands at all.
A regular Maddow Blog reader emailed overnight to ask for more information on what Democrats have already compromised on in this process. The short answer is, "Everything."
Dems passed the Affordable Care Act a few years ago, which itself was a compromise -- Dems traded away many progressive goals and priorities, embracing a Republican-friendly health care plan in order to get the legislation done. Since then, lawmakers in both parties have approved all kinds of spending bills that included funding for the health care law.
Over the last several weeks, however, with a shutdown deadline looming, it was time for the parties to lay out their demands. Republicans demanded fewer health care benefits for Americans. Democrats could have demanded anything -- an end to the damaging sequestration policy, elimination of the debt ceiling, a vote on immigration reform, universal background checks -- but instead started in the center. Congressional Dems were even willing to accept painfully low spending levels, as evidenced by this chart Michael Linden and Harry Stein published yesterday, just to ensure the government didn't shut down.
Democrats, in other words, acted like grown-ups, putting aside their own policy agenda -- an agenda the public endorsed in the recent national elections -- in the interest of avoiding a crisis. Republicans could have taken this as a win and moved on, but they wouldn't take "yes" for an answer.
As Greg Sargent explained yesterday, "Only one party is demanding major concessions from the other in exchange for keeping the government open at sequester spending levels -- levels leaders of that same party have already declared is a victory for them --while the other party is demanding exactly nothing in exchange for doing that."
Dan Balz added, "Amid all the maneuvering and hand-wringing ahead of the government shutdown, one thing remained clear: House Republicans are continuing to grapple unsuccessfully with what it means to be a governing party."
For all of our sakes, here's hoping they figure it out soon.