The drama surrounding the controversial Continuing Resolution/Omnibus spending bill (or "CRomnibus") continues today, as the White House spent much of Thursday evening trying to get House Democrats to support a bill which includes a provision that guts a key part of the Dodd/Frank financial reform law. President Obama and his staff worked the phones, while White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough met with House Democrats on the Hill, and managed to whip up the 57 votes needed to help John Boehner pass it in the House. Today, the bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate, where Sen. Elizabeth Warren has mounted stiff and substantive opposition to it.
The essential dispute is that while there was already a rule that prevented banks from gambling with FDIC-insured deposits, Dodd-Frank added a rule that said banks had to set up a whole other company to do their gambling, reasoning that risky derivatives could still sink a company with FDIC-insured deposits even if those deposits were not used in the trades. The White House, Sen. Warren, and House Democrats all agree that the provision sucks, but the White House also thinks this is a better deal than they can get with the new Congress (definitely true), and the best deal they can get now (probably true, but maybe not).
At the top of his Ebola meeting Friday (remember Ebola?), the President talked about the CRomnibus, and explained why he supports its passage despite the Dodd/Frank provision (and others) that he opposes:
"This by definition was a compromise bill. This is what is produced when you have a divided government that the American people voted for. Now, there are a couple provisions in this bill that I really do not like. On the other hand, t"here is funding within this bill that makes sure we can continue to make progress in providing health insurance to all Americans, make sure that we continue with our efforts to combat climate change, that we're able to expand early childhood education in terms of making a meaningful difference in communities all across the country, that allows us to expand our manufacturing hubs that are contributing to the growth of jobs and the progress we've seen in our economy over the last couple of years. And so, overall, this legislation allows us to build on the economic progress and the national security progress that's important. Had I been able to draft my own legislation, get it passed without any Republican votes, I suspect it would be slightly different. That is not the circumstance we find ourselves in and I think what the American people very much are looking for is responsible governance and the willingness to compromise, and that's what we've clearly done, and so I'm glad it passed the House and I'm hopeful that it will pass the Senate."
The Beltway media is fetishistic about anything that lets them use the words "both sides," especially "compromise," so I hope everyone in DC is wearing protective eyewear if this thing passes tonight, because the thousands of instant diamond-cutting boners are going to put someone's eye out. But the President's qualified praise for the bill, which, again, might well be the best we could do, demonstrates why this idea of "bipartisan compromise" is complete horseshit.
The President, to be fair, was much more measured in his praise for the bill than the White House has been the past few days, but let's take a look at "both sides" of the ledger, and what it is the Democrats "got," versus Republicans. Most of what President Obama cited constitutes either stuff Congress is just supposed to do (fund the government) or allowing Democrats to keep stuff they've already "gotten." On Thursday, Josh Earnest repeatedly talked about how the CRomnibus didn't contain attacks on Obamacare or immigration reform.
The things the Democrats "got" are things that people need, like not getting Ebola or beheaded, or health insurance. In exchange, Republicans got to help out big banks without ever really explaining why, increase donation limits to political parties tenfold, gut funding to the EPA, and even restrict HHS's ability to fund risk corridors for Obamacare.
Best deal or not, this is not "compromise" in the sense that most people understand it, or in the way the White House explains it, where "neither side gets everything it wants." Compromise is "half pepperoni, half mushroom," not "We get all mushroom or we crap all over the pizza. Also, we still crap on some of the pizza."