Let’s Compromise: Do It My Way!

I am grateful for some of the signs emanating from the Right yesterday indicating a willingness to accept the 2012 election results, and/or to stop treating the president of the United States as though he’s some sort of alien usurper of power. But let’s don’t get carried away in suggesting “the fever”–as the president referred to Republican radicalism and obstructionism during the campaign–has indeed broken.

Consider the headlines about Eric Cantor’s effusive expressions of good will and bipartisanship yesterday: “Cantor: Time for Washington to ‘Set Aside” Differences” is how CBS put it. Sounds good. But what, exactly, was Cantor talking about?

House Republicans announced last week their decision to hold a vote to raise the debt ceiling, potentially averting a contentious debate many expected to go down to the wire this February. Cantor said today House Republicans are committed to working on passing a federal budget “so we can begin to see how we’re going to pay off this debt; how we’re going to spend other people’s money, the taxpayers’ money; and begin an earnest discussion about the real issues facing this country.”

“I think times demand as much,” he said. “It’s time that Washington get with it, and that is why I believe, hopefully, the Senate can see clear to doing a budget, putting a spending plan out there for the world to see… So we can begin to unite around the things that bring us together, set aside the differences, and get some results.”

Do you see any change of position here, other than the already-decided House GOP decision to not to stake everything on a debt limit hostage-taking exercise at the end of February? Best way I know to translate what Cantor is saying is: “Let’s see how much agreement we can get on the elements of our agenda,” which are entirely about domestic spending, not defense spending or revenues, and involve direct benefit cuts, not ways to rein in health care costs.

Yes, it’s a good thing that for whatever reason congressional Republicans have decided not to blow up the U.S. economy if they don’t get their way in fiscal negotiations. But for the moment, their way or the highway still seem to be the only options they comprehend.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.