Wonkbook: Are Republicans overreaching? Or just negotiating effectively?
The showdown in Wisconsin continues, and the one in Washington is just beginning. In Wisconsin, Democrats and unions have offered Gov. Scott Walker the benefit concessions he's asked for, but not the end to collective bargaining he's demanded. Thus far, he's said no -- and he's threatened to let a Friday deadline for restructuring the state's debt come and go, at a cost to Wisconsin of more than $160 million, if Democrats don't agree to return and allow the full passage of his proposed law.
In Washington, we're getting closer and closer to a government shutdown. There's now talk of a continuing resolution to push the deadline back by a couple of weeks, but Republicans will only accept it if it includes many of the cuts they're asking for in their full spending bill. A shutdown isn't a sure thing yet, but many who were dismissing the idea of it a month ago are taking it seriously today.
Republicans and Democrats, it seems, govern rather differently. Republicans are proving themselves willing to do what liberals long wanted the Obama administration to do: Play hardball. Refuse compromise. Risk severe consequences that they'll attempt to blame on their opponent. The Obama administration's answer to this was always that it was important to be seen as the reasonable actor in the drama, to occupy some space known as the middle, and to avoid, so much as possible, the appearance of dramatic overreach. This is as close as we're likely to come to a test of that theory. In two cases, Republicans have chosen a hardline and are refusing significant compromise, even at the risk of terrible consequences. Will the public turn on them for overreach? Applaud their strength and conviction? Or not really care one way or the other, at least by the time the next election rolls around?
The fight in Wisconsin is spreading to Ohio and Indiana, report Neil King, Thomas Burton, and Kris Maher: "The clash between Republicans and unions that caught fire in Wisconsin last week escalated Monday: Labor leaders planned to take their protests to dozens of other capitals and Democrats in a second state considered a walkout to stall bills that would limit union power... On Monday, thousands of steelworkers, autoworkers and other labor activists surrounded the Indiana state capitol to protest a bill before the legislature to dramatically weaken the clout of private-sector unions...In Ohio, union officials are expecting 5,000 or more protesters Tuesday at the state house, where a legislative panel is considering a Republican-backed bill that would restrict collective-bargaining rights for about 400,000 public employees."
Even some union workers in Wisconsin back the governor's ban on state employee collective bargaining, report A.G. Sulzberger and Monica Davey: "A simmering resentment over those lost jobs and lost benefits in private industry -- combined with the state’s history of highly polarized politics -- may explain why Wisconsin, once a pioneer in supporting organized labor, has set off a debate that is spreading to other states over public workers, unions and budget woes. There are deeply divided opinions and shifting allegiances over whether unions are helping or hurting people who have been caught in the recent economic squeeze. And workers themselves, being pitted against one another, are finding it hard to feel sympathy or offer solidarity, with their own jobs lost and their benefits and pensions cut back or cut off."
The House GOP will not pass even a two-week spending extension without cuts, reports Janet Hook: "House Republican leaders, facing a crucial budget face-off with the White House and Senate Democrats, are scrambling for ways to avoid a government shutdown--or at least the blame for one...GOP leaders now are preparing a short-term spending measure to keep the government open for about two additional weeks while broader budget talks are conducted...In exchange for extending the deadline, Republicans want Democrats to agree to cut spending even in that short-term measure, and will try to put the onus on Democrats if they oppose it...Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, a member of the Democratic leadership, conceded no ground."
The White House is reviewing the impact of a government shutdown, reports Damian Paletta: "White House officials have begun reviewing the potential impact of a brief lapse in new government funding if Congress doesn't pass a temporary spending measure by March 4, people familiar with the matter said. The administration's review, led in part by the Office of Management and Budget, has looked at a range of issues, including the protocol to keep key government functions operational if Congress fails to pass a temporary spending measure by the end of next week. 'As part of the executive branch charged with overseeing the management of the federal government, OMB is prepared for any contingency as a matter of course,' OMB communications director Kenneth Baer said. The current temporary spending law expires March 4."
In-store appearance interlude: The xx play "Intro" and "Crystalised" live.
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Still to come: Wisconsin's governor is standing his ground; states are trying different tactics to block health care reform; Democrats are attacking border security cuts in the Republican spending bill; and four cats fall asleep with noodle cups on their heads.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is not giving any ground, reports Meredith Shiner: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker continued to stand his ground Monday night, challenging the 14 Democratic senators who have fled to Illinois to return to 'where they belong' so Republicans can move forward with his budget-cutting plan. Over the chants of 'Resign! Resign!' heard through the marble walls of the governor’s conference room from protesters in the rotunda mere yards away, Walker calmly delivered a defense of his controversial plan to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of many of Wisconsin’s public workers. He reiterated the need to balance the budget, weighed down by a deficit of more than $3 billion. And he accused his state’s Democrats of shirking their responsibilities and being opaque in the process."
Public workers need unions for the same reason private sector workers do, writes Nelson Lichtenstein: "Public employees are legally protected from managerial caprice. But as anyone who has dealt with a government bureaucracy knows, such rules require enforcement. You can hire a lawyer, but for the vast majority of low- and middle-income public servants, a union is far more powerful and effective. The most famous public-sector strike in the 20th century demonstrates this. In 1968, sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., were public employees covered by civil service rules. But they were also all African Americans, humiliated on the job daily by white supervisors and other officials. A typical grievance: When it rained, they had no place to take shelter."
Indefinite stagnation doesn't have to be the new normal, writes Timothy Noah: http://slate.me/i2mj5z
Public and private sector unions are fundamentally different, writes David Brooks: "Private sector unions push against the interests of shareholders and management; public sector unions push against the interests of taxpayers. Private sector union members know that their employers could go out of business, so they have an incentive to mitigate their demands; public sector union members work for state monopolies and have no such interest. Private sector unions confront managers who have an incentive to push back against their demands. Public sector unions face managers who have an incentive to give into them for the sake of their own survival. Most important, public sector unions help choose those they negotiate with."
Wisconsin is about power, not money, writes Ezra Klein: "America's various governmental entities are looking for ways to avoid defaulting on their debt - or at least defaulting on their debt to the powerful. That addendum is important, because one of the strategies that's emerging is to default on debt to the less powerful, the people who don't have the power to wreck our economy. This is a crucial fact about the economy: Power matters. It's worth more, in many cases, than money. And that's what's really at issue in Wisconsin. It's why Gov. Scott Walker (R) is uninterested in taking concessions from the unions on wages and benefits if they don't come alongside concessions on collective bargaining. What he wants isn't a change in the balance of payments. It's a change in the balance of power."
Neil Irwin interviews Dallas Fed president Richard Fisher: http://wapo.st/fQF59V
George Will takes three lessons from Wisconsin, and puts Walker in some very heady company: "Walker's calm comportment in this crisis is reminiscent of President Reagan's during his 1981 stand against the illegal strike by air traffic controllers, and Margaret Thatcher's in the 1984 showdown with the miners' union over whether unions or Parliament would govern Britain. Walker, by a fiscal seriousness contrasting with Obama's lack thereof, and Obama, by inciting defenders of the indefensible, have made three things clear: First, the Democratic Party is the party of government, not only because of its extravagant sense of government's competence and proper scope, but also because the party's base is government employees. Second, government employees have an increasingly adversarial relationship with the governed. Third, Obama's "move to the center" is fictitious."
Great moments in video editing interlude: Radiohead's Thom Yorke dances to "Single Ladies".
GOP state governments are experimenting with ways of blocking health care reform, report N.C. Aizenman and Amy Goldstein: "With battles over the president's signature health legislation underway in the courts and on Capitol Hill, a third line of attack is forming in the states: Practically every week, a Republican governor or lawmaker announces a new effort to kill the health-care law or undercut its implementation. Some have returned federal funding to prepare for the rollout and halted early planning work. But others are moving forward even as they pursue efforts to overturn the law... After a federal judge in Florida not only struck down the health-care law but suggested that his judgment was the 'functional equivalent of an injunction,' officials in three of the 26 states party to the suit - Alaska, Florida and Wisconsin - declared the law 'dead.'"
Provisions in the health law will force a reduction in hospital readmissions: http://bit.ly/f5SAvN
The White House wants to change how the health law handles long-term care, reports Robert Pear: "One of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s legacies in the new health care law, intended to allow the chronically ill and people with disabilities to continue living in their homes, is too costly to survive without major changes, Obama administration officials now say. Republican lawmakers, who have vowed to repeal the health care law, cite the administration’s acknowledgment as yet another reason to do so. But the health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, says the law gives her plenty of authority to make the necessary changes to the program without Congressional action. To make the program viable, Ms. Sebelius said, she is considering changes in the eligibility criteria."
Democrats are objecting to border security cuts in the GOP spending bill, reports Julia Preston: "Preparing for the fight next week in Congress over federal spending legislation, Democratic leaders in the Senate said they will not support a bill with $60 billion in budget cuts that passed the Republican-led House on Saturday because it reduces funding for border security. In a letter sent on Monday to House appropriations leaders, Senator Charles Schumer of New York and two other Democrats said the House bill would shrink the Border Patrol by 870 agents and cut $272 million in funds for surveillance systems to monitor the border with Mexico. They said those cuts would cancel gains from a bill adopted last August, with virtually unanimous bipartisan support, that increased border funding by $600 million, adding 1,000 new agents to the Border Patrol."
The Koch brothers are active players in the Wisconsin dispute, reports Eric Lipton: "State records show that Koch Industries, their energy and consumer products conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., was one of the biggest contributors to the election campaign of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican who has championed the proposed cuts. Even before the new governor was sworn in last month, executives from the Koch-backed group had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown...To union leaders and liberal activists in Washington, this intervention in Wisconsin is proof of the expanding role played by nonprofit groups with murky ties to wealthy corporate executives as they push a decidedly conservative agenda."
A newly replicated study shows elite colleges don't give an earnings boost, writes David Leonhardt: http://nyti.ms/hIgfBG
Adorable animals sleeping in a group interlude: Four cats sleep while wearing noodle cups as hats.
Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews and Michelle Williams. Photo credit: Darren Hauck/Reuters.
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