Since shutting down the government Tuesday, House Republican leaders have portrayed themselves as willing negotiators who lack a partner. In photo op stunts, tweets, and interviews, conservatives in the lower chamber have claimed that Democrats’ refusal to compromise with them is what’s causing the government to stay closed. In reality, Democrats have offered numerous compromises over months of dispute over the 2014 budget and conservatives have repeatedly acted to thwart such a middle ground outcome.
Here are five facts from the past year that show how the conservative minority’s new public relations posture is an effort to rewrite very recent history:
1. House Republicans could have avoided a shutdown by accepting a Senate offer that made huge spending concessions to conservatives. The government shut down at after Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) declined to bring up a short-term spending bill (known as a “continuing resolution” or CR) passed by Senate Democrats. The government has operated on CRs rather than proper annual budgets ever since 2010, when Republicans first began demanding that cuts be attached to even the most basic functions of government. Compared to the budget Democrats had enacted at that time, the Senate CR rejected late Monday night in the House is $199 billion lighter. What’s more, the first House Republican budget of the Tea Party era would have spent $109 billion more in 2014 than what the Senate CR proposed. The Senate CR didn’t include language preventing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans had sought. But in the most fundamental sense the Senate CR represented a huge budget compromise with Republicans who want huge spending cuts.
2. Congress has already cut $2.4 trillion from the deficit. Congress has enacted about $2.4 trillion in total deficit reduction since 2011. Roughly three dollars out of every four knocked off the deficit in that time has come from spending cuts, indicating substantial compromise on the part of Democrats who support the programs that absorbed those cuts.
3. Republicans can’t even pass specific legislation enacting the further cuts they say they want. Republicans say they want even more spending cuts, but budget resolutions and abstract packages like sequestration just set total spending levels without identifying specific cuts to achieve those levels. When Republicans in the House try to get specific about their grand gestures, they fail. In August, House leaders yanked a bill of specific cuts to lead removal programs, community development grants, and homelessness assistance programs because it was not going to pass.
4. Republicans refused to enter budget negotiations with the Senate 18 times – and bragged about it – before they started accusing Democrats of refusing to go to conference this week. On Tuesday, Republican leaders tweeted a photo of themselves sitting across from empty chairs. But the GOP refused to fill those chairs themselves for six months. Democratic Senate leaders requested a conference committee with the House to hash out the differences between their budget proposals 18 separate times over half a year, and Republicans refused each time. Senators like Rand Paul (R-KY) took to the floor of the chamber with signs boasting of the number of days they’d succeeded in “Preventing A Back Room Deal To Raise The Debt Limit.”
5. Republican demands indicate the only “compromise” they’d accept involves President Obama adopting Mitt Romney’s policies. Even as they cry “compromise,” Republican lawmakers are insisting that Democrats must agree to gut the landmark 2010 health care law. They have not budged from that position in the current fight, which is just the latest instance of Republicans defining compromise as agreeing to their positions. Previously the party has demanded a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, supply-side tax reform of the sort designed by former Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-WI), letting companies refuse to cover birth control in employee health care plans, deregulating the coal and oil industries, and slashing food stamps funding. Those are just some of the 21 Republican party platform planks that the GOP has demanded as conditions for either extending government funding or agreeing to pay the country’s bills on time.