Up on Capitol Hill, Congress has developed its own language. A language foreign to most Americans. Some common words have a totally different meaning up here. If you closely watch the news or subscribe to specialty publications, you may know the definitions of these words. Otherwise, you can listen all day and never really know what is happening.
The language includes words like: mark-up, sequester, rules, third rail, or fiscal cliff.
My goal here at Capitol Hill Daily is to get you beyond the terminology and get you to the significance of any issue for you as an individual.
One of these terms so often used on Capitol Hill is “Grand Bargain.” Speaker of the House John Boehner desperately wanted a Grand Bargain to result from the fiscal cliff crisis. He failed miserably.
A Grand Bargain results when a President, House Majority Leader, and Speaker of the House of different parties come together to solve a major problem through accommodation and bipartisanship. The last Grand Bargain we remember was when Senate Leader Tom Daschle, House Speaker Denny Hastert, and President George W. Bush locked arms and pushed through the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
The media in Washington loves to cover a Grand Bargain. Grand Bargains offer the intrigue of secret negotiations. A Grand Bargain is never done out in the open. This type of inside-Washington horse trading could never happen if people could watch as their ox is being gored.
Now to have a real Grand Bargain, the people can only learn the specifics through coordinated leaks of favorable information; and then legislation, thousands of pages in length, magically appears and passes late that same night. God forbid someone actually read the bill or have full knowledge of what is happening.
Grand Bargains totally avoid the legislative process as it should happen. The regular order of business is straightforward. A bill is introduced. Hearings are held about the proposal. The bill is debated in committee; then if the bill passes in committee, it is sent to the full Congress for a vote. This process takes months. Grand Bargains happen in hours and days.
Recently, Barack Obama has been pounding his teleprompter in the cause of a Grand Bargain. His bargain would “avoid sequester,” “raise revenue,” “reform programs,” and “keep the recovery moving ahead.”
This time, roles are reversed; and John Boehner is ignoring Obama’s calls for a Grand Bargain.
Obama is worried about how the sequestering or cutting one trillion dollars from projected spending growth, which is automatic, will affect his favorite constituencies and the weak recovery. Republicans on the other hand are still hurting from the political whipping Obama unleashed on them during the fiscal cliff crisis. While they too don’t like to see the budget growth slowed, their willingness to raise taxes late last year has left them with unhappy constituents and a severe popularity problem. They aren’t about to raise taxes again.
So dreams of any Grand Bargain won’t come true. Instead, expect the automatic cuts to happen. And expect Barack Obama to be mad as a hornet in his public pronouncements during the weeks ahead. He will claim the spending cuts hurt the economy. Republicans will counter that the tax increases Obama pushed through are responsible for the downturn. Ironically, the economy may muddle through, and both will be wrong.
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