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There are three pieces of legislation pending that Democrats are currently deciding what to do with. For all three, the tradeoff at hand is policy vs. politics. That is, is the policy valuable enough that it’s worth supporting even though it gives a Republican president a political win in an election year? Here are the three:

  • USMCA trade agreement (aka NAFTA 2.0). This one is peculiar. As policy, it’s barely different from our current NAFTA agreement. What’s more, I’m not aware of any significant Democratic constituencies that are begging for it. And yet, the Democratic leadership seems to be working hard to come up with compromise language that will allow it to pass. I’m at a loss to explain this.
  • Surprise billing. This is a bill that would prevent hospital patients from getting huge bills when it turns out that one of the doctors who wandered through their room wasn’t part of their insurance network—even though the hospital itself is. This would be a win for Trump, but it’s also something that would truly help a lot of people. I can see Democrats deciding that it was worth supporting even if it helps Trump.
  • Space Force. Democrats are apparently willing to support creation of Trump’s Space Force in return for parental leave for federal workers. This one also leaves me shaking my head. On the one hand, Space Force strikes me as bad policy. Nobody in the military community seems to think much of it, and I can also envision it being the foundation of some pretty sketchy activities that might not pass muster in the more traditional service branches. On the other hand, parental leave for federal workers is not only small potatoes, but could be explicitly bad for Democrats. There are lots of Trumpish-leaning voters who believe that federal workers are coddled, and a new benefit just for them might be greeted pretty coldly. Potentially, then, it’s both bad policy and bad politics.

I wonder what I’m missing here? It sure seems as though congressional Democrats aren’t playing the political game very astutely.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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