Dallas Morning News Editorial: Cruz, Obama both need to change tune in budget battle

September 26, 2013 

Washington's latest budget stalemate looks so similar to the fractious fiscal fights of the last few years that the weary and worn-out are calling the Capitol's impasse the new normal. Who can blame them, really? Budget battles have become a show, a way to score points with each party's base. Principled compromise? Ha.

Look at the debate that Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has sparked over defunding Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act.

Conservatives from Karl Rove to The Wall Street Journal's editorial page to Mitt Romney have warned that this is the wrong political battle for Cruz and crowd to fight.

The warnings keep coming because Senate Republicans lack the votes to cut off funding.

Plus, there is that fellow in the White House, the one who staked his first term on passage of this legislation. What's he going to do, suddenly kill his own legacy?

Still, Cruz battles on. He sees his duty as trying to stop bad legislation, much like House Republicans took it upon themselves last week to cut off Obamacare funding.

But the Senate is not the House, which is why Cruz would be best advised to drop the fight, including for his party's sake. He need not just take our suggestion. Rove best summed up the political case against the defunding strategy when he wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the doomed effort would only strengthen the president and alienate independents from the GOP.

For his part, President Barack Obama needs to do much more to keep Washington from devolving into the legislative equivalent of mud wrestling.

The fiscal year ends Monday. That deadline is what's prompting all the talk you're hearing about a government shutdown. And shortly after Monday, a vote comes up on increasing the ceiling on how much money Washington can borrow.

But what's the president doing? Mostly telling GOP House Speaker John Boehner that he's not willing to negotiate.

Really? So, the president of the United States will negotiate with the leader of Russia over chemical weapons in Syria but not with the speaker of the House in his own country over a debt reduction plan? That's interesting.

The president may not like Republicans on Capitol Hill, but he can't afford to simply sit on the mountaintop. He needs to engage them on a series of measures that could rein in spending on Medicare and other entitlement programs.

And if the president becomes willing to deal, Boehner must risk his own political capital.

House Republicans will be restive, but the nation's budget crisis is not going away on its own. The situation needs principled compromise, which remains scarce in Washington.

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