In the event of a shutdown, plenty of blame to go around

It is easy to spot the GOP's political vulnerability as the government heads to a likely shutdown. They moved the goalposts on a final sum for cuts at the eleventh hour, trying to push a possible compromise of $33 billion to $40 billion because they clearly feared they did not yet have enough votes. Their conservative members continue to insist on language affecting policy changes at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), abortion and the implementation of the healthcare reform law, which are motivating progressive groups and donors like Democrats could have only wished for. Indeed, cutting spending and deficit reduction — not to mention job creation — was the Republicans' mandate from the voters in last year's midterm elections, not restricting abortion or limiting environmental regulations.
 
But it's also worth noting that the Democrats have become the Party of No. To avert the shutdown they claim could threaten the economic recovery by continuing to fund the government for the next six months remaining in fiscal 2011 they have produced not a single piece of legislation. Sure, they will sit down to haggle over numbers Republicans come up with, yet despite controlling the Senate and the executive branch, Democrats have allowed the House Republicans to drive the entire budget debate thus far. More importantly, President Obama has been joined by congressional Democrats — save for three brave Democratic senators — in avoiding any discussion or engagement on the pressing issue of entitlement reform that both parties agree — and insist — must be tackled for the future generations to be relieved of our crushing debt.
 
In my column this week I described why a shutdown could be perilous for the GOP, and why it is unnecessary since on cuts, at least in this round, they have already won. The Republicans will likely overreach, as parties newly empowered often do, and as Democrats did by passing the stimulus, healthcare reform and cap-and-trade legislation even when they knew they were unpopular. But Democrats shouldn't count on GOP mistakes to lead them back to power in 2012 or beyond. They should join the debate on how to solve our fiscal crisis and propose solutions of their own.
 
In the months to come, the two parties should work together as six senators are on trying to reach consensus for real deficit reduction. And if Democrats find Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) ambitious budget plan for 2012 objectionable, they should come to the table with a plan, or many plans, of their own. If not, they will soon find themselves tagged with the label they loved last year, "The Party of No."


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