Late Monday, as the government neared a midnight deadline triggering a shutdown, the House voted to appoint conferees to negotiate a solution to the funding crisis. These conferees would form the House contingent of a “conference committee” of Reps and Senators tasked with hammering out a compromise to reopen government. On Tuesday morning, the Senate is expected to reject the House outreach.
From the beginning of the funding debate, Senate Democrats and President Obama have refused to negotiate, or even speak with, House Republicans. On Monday, Speaker Boehner finally received a phone call from Obama, the first in more than ten days. Obama’s message was simple: he’s not going to negotiate.
The pundit class waxes poetically about the beauty of “compromise” as if it is some kind of divine writ. Of course, “compromise” is only binding on Republicans and conservatives. Democrats are never under such pressure. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) can stand before reporters and proudly proclaim to the public that he has no intention of even talking to Speaker Boehner about the funding debate and no one will think the statement warrants a follow-up question.
Not only did Reid refuse to even speak with Boehner as the government approached its spending deadline, he slow-walked his chamber through consideration of House proposals to keep the government open. Twice, he chose to take the weekend off in response to House action, rather than work through the weekend and buy precious time for talks.
Rejecting a conference committee with the House should put the lie to Reid’s farce. Convening a conference committee doesn’t obligate either side to actually reach a compromise. It does, however, provide a mechanism for talks to begin. Eventually, those talks will have to begin if the government is to reopen. It obviously makes sense to start sooner, rather than later.