Wednesday, December 11, 2013

President Obama's "common sense caucus" is working

About 9 months ago, media pundits had some fun ridiculing President Obama for what they called his "charm offensive." Their spin on it was that this President - who they describe as distant and removed in his relationships with Congress - was finally trying to turn over a new leaf in an attempt to win them over. Of course at the same time, most of them declared that this charm offensive was a waste of time because Republicans would never vote for anything he supported.

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.

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.
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.

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:
  1. Protect Obamacare
  2. No changes to entitlements without new revenue
  3. 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.


  1. Doesn't this deal also last for two years? That takes away a bargaining chip from the tea people.

  2. Not quite. It's better understood as a non-aggression pact between two sides that are really struggling politically at the moment, with the teabaggers left to howl out in the cold. The sequester finally proved unpalatable enough to deal, but not in a way where Democratic or Republican agendas are able to advance in the way maximalist forecasters hoped based on an examination of the leverage one side supposedly had over the other.

    Put it this way: at the SOTU six weeks from now, will the President hail 2013 as a year of compromise and common sense solutions, or is he going to be spitting fire about missed investments, universal education and income inequality? The Pentagon gets its money back and the two parties agree to a tactical stalemate and time to regroup for next year's elections.

    1. I'd suggest that the first order of business was to move beyond the "government via crisis" mode we've been in lately. That's what the common sense caucus finally provides, so its an important step. And it will likely get us immigration reform in the spring.

      But other than that, I agree. The rest of the domestic agenda is likely on hold until after next year's election.

  3. Any step forward is success. That so many people believe that this one man could turn the country around suggests that too many people don't understand representative democracy, much less presidential authority and how the three branches of government are supposed to work. Because so many people don't understand what the responsibilities of Congress are, they are judging past presidents by their Congresses and insisting that those presidents who got liberal legislation passed had some kind of mojo instead of a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.

    My former sanctuary of liberal fellowship---- a blog--- is now a rag with comments full of firebaggers so I'm out of there. It's getting increasingly difficult to find places where the idea that President Obama is a competent and sincere leader is the norm. It's discouraging and foreboding.

    We might not get to save unemployment benefits this go around, but I trust Obama will do what he can to save them; if not, it will just be because the deck is stacked too hard against him, which is easy in a political climate in which there is so little public support for him among pundits and a non-stop yellow screed against him from "journalists". I'm beginning to wonder if presidential historians are going to tell the actual story of his presidency.

    White supremism and misogyny appear to be winning right now because so many liberals don't understand how government works and appear to want the POTUS to be a man they can put on the magical totem pole in their heads that has everything to do with their feelings of entitlement and vague ideals, and nothing to do with how government actually works. At this point, the most red-neck, gun loving, evolution denying, misogynist, racist, moronic Republican voters are smarter than a whole lot of college educated liberals because they're smart enough to vote in every election for someone who can win.

    If we could get out the vote, take the House and keep the Senate in the next election, we could get the legislation we want and need. In the face of a global economic machine rigged for the oligarchs, and monumental environmental disasters that are just going to keep coming and keep getting worse, conservative = suffering, death, and moving faster toward extinction. Greenwald and other Libertarians = distraction. Too many liberals are wasting time with they think is ideal with little more than bumper sticker slogans, new age woo, a whole lot of ignorance, and an overweening since of entitlement. The left needs to get back to the library and grow up. We don't have time for this.

  4. I love your comment, and I agree with it. Other than Smartypants, I would recommend two sites The Obama Diary and The People's view that both highlight the great work the President and his administrations are doing and have accomplished, that you won't hear from the Corporate Media.


  5. I'll check those out, sjterrid. Thnx.