Who ‘decided to pick a fight’?

Whenever there’s any kind of dispute, “he/she started it” invariably sounds childish. It’s especially true in politics, in which a lot of voters just don’t much care.

But I’m of the opinion that accountability matters, and when the media gives the public the wrong impression, it’s worth setting the record straight. Here’s the Washington Post‘s report this morning on the spending standoff that may lead to a government shutdown in six days.

Congress left town for the weekend without resolving the latest spat over spending, an almost accidental dispute that set the parties bickering over $1.6 billion in budget cuts — an amount that equals just 0.04 percent of the federal budget. As a result, Washington once again finds itself a week away from a potential government shutdown, a possibility that was supposed to have been averted as part of last month’s deal to end an epic battle over the federal debt ceiling.

That agreement was still largely intact Friday. But Democrats decided to pick a fight over a side issue: an insistence by the GOP to pay for more disaster relief funding by cutting a popular auto-industry loan program. Republicans refused to back down. [emphasis added]

That second paragraph is puzzling. If Republicans insisted on specific demands and refused to back down, how is it, exactly, that Democrats picked a fight?

If assigning responsibility matters, then the details are worth paying attention to. A basic framework was in place for a stopgap spending measure, and officials from both parties were fairly confident the deal would hold together. Then Republicans decided to play a couple of games.

The first was a decision to change the rules when it came to emergency disaster relief — Republicans said they wouldn’t approve the aid unless Democrats accepted cuts to a successful clean-energy program. The Senate and the White House said this wouldn’t do, but the House GOP went ahead anyway.

The second was a decision to make the spending bill a little more attractive to far-right members on Thursday, with the leadership buying some GOP votes by cutting $100 million from a Department of Energy loan program the GOP loved until a few weeks ago. The Senate and the White House again urged Republicans to be more sensible, but the House GOP again proceeded anyway.

“Democrats decided to pick a fight over a side issue”? No. Republicans went with some cheap stunts and Senate Dems said they wouldn’t play along this time. (I emphasize “this time” because they traditionally give. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a conservative Dem from Louisiana, said yesterday Dems “grew a backbone…. We normally cave.”)

Blaming Dems for this mess strikes me as pretty silly.

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