Wanted: Master Negotiator

We’re in a serious jam.  Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman writes that the legislative stalemate over coronavirus disaster relief deals with

a complex and thorny negotiation problem.   Enhanced unemployment benefits have now expired, leaving over 30 million Americans who have lost their jobs in a precarious economic position.  The program providing loans to small businesses is coming to an end.  And the pandemic is exploding all across the country, which will inevitably put off the day when we can resume something like normal economic activity.  The two parties have fundamental differences about how to address the crisis.

In his column, entitled Another Impasse on the Rescue Package.  Imagine If the President Were a Dealmaker, he writes,

What this deadlock needs is a master negotiator, someone whose extraordinary skills can break through the parties’ differences and craft a deal both sides can live with, giving Americans the help they need.

Someone like President Trump, the man who wrote “The Art of the Deal”!

You’re laughing, I know.  But think about how extraordinary that is:  During a difficult and complex negotiation, with incredibly high stakes for the country, we take it as a given that not only would the president of the United States much rather be off playing golf;  it’s also probably best for everyone if he isn’t involved at all, because he’d only make things worse.

Mr. Trump’s inability to bring together a deal clearly is part of the problem, but Congressional leaders have not been able to overcome the barriers yet either.  In past crises, both sides usually would reach agreement as the deadline loomed or let it slip a little.  Occasionally, the federal government would shut down for an extended time, but the current situation is much more dire than such crises because of the pervasive health threats and economic pressures, especially for individuals needing assistance.

Having an election approaching fast on the horizon often prompts legislators to reach deals to boost their electoral prospects.  Sometimes, however, they calculate that it’s better for them if they don’t reach a deal, figuring that the election may resolve the dispute.

This may be justifiable when the issue isn’t time sensitive.  Unfortunately, the current crisis is extremely time sensitive, as each day’s delay is likely to increase the spread of the virus and economic pain.

The members of Congress are not equally responsible for the current impasse, which is causing so much harm.  In the past, presidents have demonstrated leadership to craft legislation to solve problems and avert crises.

If only we had a president who was a master negotiator . . .

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