Democrats won the spin war in what was perhaps the first real policy battle since the new Republican House was sworn in, and President Obama was right in the middle of it. The result was an actual compromise that actually favored the Democrats.
It may seem like spin cycles are dominated by whoever shouts dramatic statements the loudest, but it often has a lot more to do with time. In this case, the two parties were both running out of it.
The April 8th deadline to pass a 2011 budget was set by the House and enforced, oddly enough, by President Obama after Republicans tried to avoid it. They passed a bill that would pay the military for the whole year and fund the rest of the government for one week.
Obama threatened to veto the bill, risking blame for a government shutdown. He knew that Republicans only wrote it to avoid said blame and force $12 billion dollars of cuts on the nation before the long term budget was actually negotiated.
If Democrats weren’t willing to veto the bill, it would have been yet another demand in the hostage negotiations they’re used to hearing from Republicans. If $12 billion was already gone, the minority in the House would’ve had to surrender either more money or social policies to Republicans.
Earlier in the week, Republicans suggested that they would not accept a budget deal unless it included riders that defunded Planned Parenthood, NPR, and Obama’s health care bill. Until Republicans hold the presidency and a supermajority in the Senate, those laws won’t be approved on their own.
It wasn’t until late Friday night that House Republicans decided not to cause a government shutdown. Prominent right-wingers like Bachmann, Huckabee, and Coburn went on Fox News throughout the day and urged their colleagues and supporters to accept a compromise that featured $38 billion in spending cuts.
If it weren’t for Obama threatening to veto the week long agreement, Republicans would have stalled. And the longer Republicans stall, the more time they have to propagandize the American public. A couple of summers ago, they had people convinced that Obama would kill Grandma.
Instead, when people started tuning in to the news to see if the government would shut down over abortion, the Republicans moved away from the attention-grabbing provisions rather than focusing on them.
In other words, the GOP lost control of the story. If non-essential government workers lose their paychecks and others lose their services, at least the Democrats and Independents among them would blame the Republicans and their precious abortions. Not to mention the Republicans are the only party to suggest that those non-essential workers shouldn’t exist in the first place.
With Republicans holding a slight lead in general polls and on the verge of reclaiming the Senate, the House didn’t want to risk some of the worst publicity policy could buy.
Yes, it’s sad that politicians only want to compromise when they are afraid doing anything else would destroy their party’s image. And yes, it’s sad that $38 billion in cuts, and not just where Republicans want them, is considered a victory these days. But that’s what we as Americans voted for.
In light of all that, the Democrats did a fantastic job on Friday night. They’ve won quite a few legislative battles since December, and it’s all been thanks to (believe it or not, liberal cynics) the courageous leadership of President Obama.