The U.S. Has to Get Serious About Wildfires

03 September 2020

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USA – One potential crisis between now and the election seems to be off the table: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have apparently made a deal to avoid a government shutdown. Both sides have agreed to temporarily keep funding at current levels without adding any controversial riders, and to push the next deadline until after the election.

In making this deal, the Democrats are giving up possible leverage. The House majority has a long list of things they’d like to force into a bill, everything from funding for election administration to protections for the Postal Service to pandemic relief and stimulus. Not to mention a full legislative agenda, much of it quite popular, as well as various measures to restrain President Donald Trump from abusing his power.

So why didn’t they stage a fight? They certainly could’ve passed a temporary spending bill that included one or more of their priorities and dumped it on the Senate. At the very least, they could’ve chosen something that would make life difficult for incumbent Republicans facing tough campaigns.

But the only way a fight would gain any attention is if the House was willing to shut down the government over it — and the history of these confrontations shows that the side that initiates a shutdown takes the blame. And while House Democrats would certainly like to win a Senate majority, they’re most concerned about saving their own seats.

Then there’s the presidential election. With former Vice President Joe Biden holding a fairly substantial lead in the polls, it makes sense for Democrats to avoid rocking the boat. After all, why fight hard for a bit more now when they may be in much better shape in January to get what they want?

As for the Republicans, Trump also wants to avoid any generalized “throw the bums out” sentiment. If there was a fight, moreover, the House could choose the focus of it, and it likely wouldn’t be one that the Trump campaign is interested in debating. And Senate Republicans in competitive races are more than happy to get an agreement that frees them from Washington as quickly as possible.

I can’t quite say that this is a triumph for good governance, since everyone is still failing to complete their work on funding bills by the deadline. But assuming this deal holds, it looks like a rare instance where everyone’s incentives push them to avoid a disaster.

1. Jesse H. Rhodes, Brian F. Schaffner and Raymond J. La Raja at the Monkey Cage on representation in local government.

2. Rick Hasen on Trump’s chaos-creating suggestion to his voters.

3. Andrew J. Seligsohn and Emily Bottie on recruiting poll workers.

4. Norm Ornstein proposes a compromise on the filibuster. As someone who has proposed filibuster fixes, I’m sympathetic, but not optimistic. The problem? I don’t think any actual senators want a compromise, or at least not enough to override their partisan preferences.

5. Dan Drezner considers Trump’s secretaries of state.

6. Dylan Matthews on electioneering.

7. My Bloomberg Opinion colleague Francis Wilkinson on the never-Trump campaign professionals.

8. Emily Badger on evictions.

9. And Greg Sargent on lawlessness at the White House — and the Justice Department.

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To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at

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Timothy Lavin at

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