Why Democrats Lost the FAA Fight, and What They Should Do Next Time

I have a new column out over at TAP on the FAA fight:

Here’s what Democrats should have done, and should be ready to do next time that a Republicans object to a specific program cut…Democrats should collect all of their sequestration complaints: Head Start, Meals on Wheels, and on and on. Next time Republicans squawk about a terrible spending cut (maybe to defense contracts?), Senate Democrats should immediately rush a bill to the floor to satisfy the Republican complaint along with a similar-sized Democratic objection. And they should satisfy those complaints, but not by giving agencies “flexibility” to take money away from some other, unspecified, program. No, they should flat-out cancel the cuts.

Lots more over there explaining why that’s the right strategy, and why Democrats were bound to lose with the strategy they were following.

Would it work? I think there’s a fairly good chance that it would. Asking Republicans to move on taxes is asking them to go back on, really, their number one campaign promise. Asking them to let the deficit get a bit bigger…well, I don’t think they really care, and I don’t think most GOP-aligned groups really care.

The fallback position, which I didn’t get into over in the column, should be for Democrats to demand that if Republicans want some sequestration cut restored then it should be Republicans who supply a specific corresponding program cut. Not agency flexibility. But again, that should be paired with a Democratic priority, even if it is paid for.

The best solution, however, is to just restore funding without pay-fors. As far as I can see, for Democrats that’s both the best politics and the best policy.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.