What those pundits missed was that President Obama wasn't trying to "charm" all Republicans in Congress. His goal was to develop a "common sense caucus" that could break the log jam created by the teapublicans. Here's how he described it:
So there is a caucus of common sense up on Capitol Hill. It’s just -- it’s a silent group right now, and we want to make sure that their voices start getting heard.When it comes to the federal budget, the rallying point for the common sense caucus is that they all want to mitigate the sequester cuts that are the result of the Budget Control Act of 2011. You might recall that back then the Republicans were holding the "good faith and credit of the United States" hostage. To end the standoff, President Obama insisted that any deal that cut spending would do so equally from defense as well as domestic programs but protect entitlements.
In the coming days and in the coming weeks I’m going to keep on reaching out to them, both individually and as groups of senators or members of the House, and say to them, let’s fix this -- not just for a month or two, but for years to come.
Those sequester cuts to defense spending are what has brought Republican hawks to the table in negotiating the budget deal announced yesterday by Senator Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan. While pundits assume erroneously that this deal will never pass the House (Boehner will once again discard the Hastert Rule, pass it with a bipartisan vote, and further marginalize the teapublicans), we're likely to hear some of the purity left complain about it.
But this budget deal protects three priorities that have come to be President Obama's bottom line in these negotiations:
- Protect Obamacare
- No changes to entitlements without new revenue
- Sequester effects shared equally between defense and domestic programs
Now that the President and Democrats have shown that they're willing to let the Republicans shut down the government in defense of Obamacare, the deal affirms that in any negotiation you have to give some to get some. While that sounds like common sense to most of us, it is a big step forward in ending the Republican position of "give us what we want or we'll blow the place up." In other words, the common sense caucus could lead us back to actual democratic governance.