Moments before a conference call with reporters was scheduled to get underway on Tuesday morning, Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, apparently unaware that many of the reporters were already on the line, began to instruct his fellow senators on how to talk to reporters about the contentious budget process. . . . Mr. Schumer told them to portray John A. Boehner of Ohio, the speaker of the House, as painted into a box by the Tea Party, and to decry the spending cuts that he wants as extreme. “I always use the word extreme,” Mr. Schumer said. “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.”
Can you imagine how much media it would have gotten if Schumer’s Republican counterpart, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, was caught on a similar call insisting that Republicans call Democratic proposals “extreme”?
Now, what makes all this interesting is that given candidate Barack Obama’s concession to conservative ideas in the presidential campaign and the bipartisan agreement President Obama entered into last falls to extend the tax rates established by his Republican predecessor, the only way Congress can reduce the deficit is by cutting federal spending.
The Republican House, attempting to finish the work left undone by the preceding Democratic Congress, passed a budget for the balance of the current fiscal year, cutting $61 billion in federal spending. The Democratic Senate has yet to pass a budget. So, instead of trying to reach a compromise with his partisan adversaries in the other chamber of Congress, Mr. Schumer, under marching orders from his caucus, is seeking to demonize Republicans who have started making tough decisions on spending.
Par for the course for Schumer, writes Jim Geraghty in his Morning Jolt newsletter (available by subscription): “This is one more example of Schumer’s disdain for the voters, not only for trying to pin an ‘extreme’ label on the Tea Party, but for thinking the American people will actually believe his ‘politics as usual’ labeling.” Geraghty quotes Ace who seeks calls the New York Democrat on his blame game, “The key point is less about the message coordination and more about Schumer scheming to shut the government down, and preparing a rehearsed justification for it, claiming it’s the other guys who won’t negotiate.”
For Schumer and the Senate Democrats, the budget talks all about message coordination when they should be about deficit reduction.