POINT OF VIEW: Enough posturing; make deal now to fund government

Jan 27, 2018
Gerald D. Skoning

The good news is the shutdown is over. The federal government is back up and running.

The bad news is that Congress has simply kicked the immigration and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) time bomb down the road to the next deadline of Feb. 8. So, in two weeks we well could be going through the very same posturing and brinksmanship with talk of yet another continuing resolution or shutdown.

It’s a blame-game redux, as Republicans and Democrats engage in self-righteous rhetoric, blaming each other for the stalemate in a mid-term election year standoff. Once again, in the weeks to come it will be down to the wire and no one will know what this “bet the ranch” poker showdown could lead to.

We are starting another countdown to a yet another shutdown. This potential catastrophe has been looming for years with no signs of urgency from lawmakers. Now, as federal employees breath a three-week sigh of relief, the rest of Washington will plunge in a “chicken little” panic once again. It’s just deja vu all over again, and again.

True enough, most negotiations with looming deadlines seem to go that way. Consider the all-night bargaining sessions that result in settlement on a new labor contract on the expiration of the old collective bargaining agreement, all with a crippling strike hanging in the balance. They get the deal done, but rarely in daylight hours, and rarely without considerable anxiety on both sides of the deal.

Or, consider the fact that the majority of settlements in civil litigation occur “on the courthouse steps,” just days before the trial was due to begin. Both sides face the time-consuming expense of a lengthy trial knowing that the prospects for total victory are problematic. Then, miraculously, the parties reach the very compromise on the eve of trial they could have reached months earlier.

Labor contract agreements and litigation settlements are often matters that could/should have been resolved long before the trial date or the expiration of the old labor contract, but they aren’t. Why? It’s a matter of negotiation psychology combined with a fair measure of posturing and brinksmanship, much like the current national angst over a budget deal.

In a labor negotiation, the parties are often reluctant to settle early lest their constituents (union members and company officials) think that they caved and “left money on the table”. They need to go down to the wire. The weeks-long negotiations, culminating in an all-night bargaining session on the eve of the contract’s expiration are the hallmarks of going the extra mile to get the very best deal possible. The bleary eyes of exhausted negotiators are the imprimatur of a “good deal”.

This kind of brinksmanship may be a treasured tradition of labor and litigation negotiators, but, on the national stage, it is anathema to market stability and fiscal sanity. We deserve better. Lawmakers should spare the American people and the financial community the angst caused by their empty platitudes, holier-than-thou posturing, and endlessly kicking the fiscal can down the legislative road. They need to do the deal.

The time for hard bargaining is over. It’s time for the self-proclaimed “Deal-Maker-in Chief” to show some real leadership. Enough with the platitudes and political posturing and let’s get the deal done … now, not at midnight on Feb. 7!

GERALD SKONING, JUNO BEACH