"Democrats Decided to Pick a Fight"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 26 2011 12:52 PM

"Democrats Decided to Pick a Fight"

I'm with Norm Ornstein: This is a eye-poppingly wrong turn of phrase from the Post's fantastic Hill reporters Lori Montgomery and Rosalind Helderman.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

Congress left town for the weekend without resolving the latest spat over spending, an almost accidental dispute that set the parties bickering over $1.6 billion in budget cuts — an amount that equals just 0.04 percent of the federal budget. As a result, Washington once again finds itself a week away from a potential government shutdown, a possibility that was supposed to have been averted as part of last month’s deal to end an epic battle over the federal debt ceiling.
That agreement was still largely intact Friday. But Democrats decided to pick a fight over a side issue: an insistence by the GOP to pay for more disaster relief funding by cutting a popular auto-industry loan program. Republicans refused to back down.
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Democrats decided to "pick a fight" like John Stossel "picked a fight" with David Schultz.

The history is long but uncomplicated.

August 25: Eric Cantor's spokeswoman Laena Fallon says that "Eric has consistently said that additional funds for federal disaster relief ought to be offset with spending cuts."

August 29: Cantor reiterates the point: "Yes, we're going to find the money. We're just going to need to make sure there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so."

September 2: MoveOn org buys ad time attacking the Cantor position as a hostage-taking. Cantor's spokesman Brad Dayspring responds:

"If people want to criticize the idea of offsetting, that’s a policy argument and legit and worthy of discussion," he said." But this whole charge of 'holding funding hostage' and blocking urgent funding is beyond absurd."

September 6: Democrats, sensing weakness, introduce a "clean" bill to provide disaster aid with no offsets.

September 7: Cantor responds again in a briefing with reporters.

Unequivocally, I am for sure making people get their money and not having to wait. I would like to say also that some of the reporting done, maybe by you in this room and others has been inaccurate. I have never, never said that I'm holding anything hostage or would be for playing politics with this. It is inaccurate and I think it is irresponsible on part of those who have written that.

September 16: Democrats move their bill while Republicans introduce one that includes FEMA funds with $1 billion cut from an energy efficiency loan program.

Since then we've had ten days of predictable accusation-flinging, but nothing that changes the basic facts. Republicans first proposed that FEMA funds come with cuts to pay for them. Democrats rejected that and suggested paying for aid first, then kicking the fight over cuts to some other bill. How did Democrats "pick" this fight? Yes, cuts-for-aid are the new normal, and yes, in the past Democrats had the reasonable position of demanding tax hikes to pay for aid. That's the choice -- borrowing, taxing, or cutting. The GOP offered one choice: Cuts, now. They picked the fight.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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