WASHINGTON—The latest bipartisan budget deal, crafted in the vain hope that the president* won't change his mind on it about 15 times before it gets to his desk, and universally scorned by the base of both political parties and, therefore, beloved of the Beltway intelligentsia, is perhaps the final evidence needed that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Conference Room) neither understands the concept of leverage, nor is he in any sense a wartime consigliere.
True, it keeps the lights on and turns the Congress away from the cliff. But it also virtually guarantees that, if a Democratic president is elected next fall, that poor person will have absolutely no room to maneuver in the pursuit of that person's policy goals. As former Harry Reid staffer Adam Jentleson explained on the electric Twitter machine the other day, absent a catastrophic loss in the Senate elections by the Republican Party, the deal almost guarantees that any Democrat elected in 2020 will be caught between an intransigent Republican Senate majority and a bipartisan flock of deficit hawks, who already are making noises about the horrors that the deal will inflict on us all.
While the deal does increase spending, which is why the Freedom Caucus folks are in high-sterics, it also doesn't entirely do away with the debt ceiling gimmick, which is the primary objection that progressive legislators have with it. Instead, it suspends the debt ceiling until 2021, which means that the debt ceiling will drop like a 50-pound bag of manure on anything a new Democratic president might have in mind for the first 100 days of a new administration. If McConnell is still running the Senate then, which seems likely, whoever the sap in the Oval is will find that the first act of their presidency will be angering the people who put them there in the first place in a futile attempt to get something past McConnell and his robot army.
This deal is a classic example of the differences between the two parties: the Republicans govern for a thin slice of the population and damned be the rest of us, while the Democrats seem bound and determined to demonstrate that they are the party that really gives a damn if the government works at all. This puts them at a considerable political disadvantage, Machiavelli-wise.
This is the trap into which Schumer stumbles, time and time again. He has been played like a tin whistle on judges, time and time again. (Joe Manchin, the putative Democratic senator from West Virginia, last week cast his 99th vote for one of El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago's judicial nominees. If he'd pulled that stuff on McConnell—or, just to name a Democratic leader, LBJ—you'd need dental records to find his career.) In Jane Mayer's new piece on the end of Al Franken's career in the Senate, Schumer comes across as the primary actor in getting rid of Franken.
And now, by refusing to even consider doing with the budget what McConnell would without even blinking, Schumer is handing the future of the Democratic Party over to the deficit scolds again. Here comes Maya MacGuineas once more, from the Washington Post:
Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said, “As we understand it, this agreement is a total abdication of fiscal responsibility by Congress and the president. It may end up being the worst budget agreement in our nation’s history.”
On MSNBC this morning, Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin praised the deal and then went on to talk about entitlement reform. Good god. Will the Clinton years never end?
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