The GOP's Terrible FinReg Bluff

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JONATHAN CHAIT APRIL 26, 2010

The GOP's Terrible FinReg Bluff

As of now, it looks like the Republicans will filibuster the first vote on financial reform. It also looks like they're pursuing the most asinine political strategy I've ever heard of, according to Politico:

Republicans acknowledge privately that the headlines won’t look good if the entire conference votes unanimously against consideration of the bill. But with both sides expected to return to talks soon after the vote, they are betting on the storyline shifting quickly. 

The short-term hit will be worth the longer-term gain of producing a more conservative measure, Republicans aides said. Republicans also argue Democrats are overestimating the political staying power of this single vote, as long as a bipartisan deal is eventually released.

So wait. Republicans think they can limit the political damage of a filibuster if they reach a bipartisan deal. But what incentive do the democrats have to reach a deal? If they can force the Republicans to maintain a filibuster, why not keep the issue going until November? The strategy here seems to be, take a political hit by opposing popular legislation, and then hope that somehow this will strengthen the party's hand in the negotiations to follow. How will this work? It's like trying to bluff your opponent in poker when both you and he know he has the stronger hand.

What's more, Republicans are no longer even pretending to be able to hold the line after today's vote. This is amazing:

McConnell secured a commitment from his conference to hold together in opposition on the first vote, but all bets are off after that, aides acknowledge. McConnell’s challenge after Monday is preventing moderates such as Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) from breaking away and weakening Republican leverage.

Now that the Democrats know the Republicans are planning to defect after the first vote, why on Earth would they compromise? Moreover, what is the point of taking the hit by filibustering reform in the first place? It could work, in theory, if you could bluff the Democrats into thinking the GOP might hold the line indefinitely. But I'm pretty sure the Democratic party has access to articles published in Politico, which means the jig is up. So now the Republicans are trying to bluff in poker when they and their opponent know they have the weaker hand, and their opponent has heard them admit that their strategy is to bet for a couple rounds and fold before the end. Why not just cut their losses now? This makes zero sense.

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posted in: jonathan chait, democratic party, republican party, maine, susan collins

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