With the deadline looming within days for the so-called fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts, the White House and the Congress are at an impasse. Neither side believes that the differences will be settled in time to make a deal that avoids these austerity measures from becoming law on January 1st, so the time has come for a superhero.
“Chief O’Hara, send up the Bettman signal!”
With the negotiations at a critical junction and time running out, House Republicans have called in a professional negotiator to broker a final deal. Today Speaker John Boehner announced that the House caucus has hired NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to represent them in future White House meetings on the fiscal cliff. The GOP believes that Bettman represents their best and last hope to break the President’s resolve since Bettman is “stupid enough to do anything”, as one senior House staffer put it.
Boehner cited Bettman’s vast experience in ruining the game of hockey as the main reason he was hired for this delicate assignment in Washington.
“Hiring Bettman sends a clear message,” said Boehner through tears. “We are willing to burn the federal government to the ground to get what we want. The issue isn’t money. It’s power. Is that microphone on?”
Bettman’s impressive resume of destruction includes the expansion of hockey into unsustainable warm weather markets, the loss of major television contracts, and the unprecedented cancellation of an entire NHL season in 2005. Republicans are hopeful that his brand of scorched earth business blunders will win concessions from the White House while simultaneously destroying a federal government that they feel was emboldened by its victory in the Civil War.
During the last period of tensions between Congress and the President in the 1860s, the federal government and the executive branch won major concessions from the Congress and the states. This time, Boehner vowed not to make the same mistakes as Jefferson Davis. So he turned to Bettman.
Speaking from the podium at his introductory news conference, Bettman struck the combative and incoherent tone that hockey fans have come to expect and loathe.
“After reviewing the President’s so-called ‘offers’, none of the variations even began to approach 50-50, either at all or for some long period of time,” Bettman said. “It’s clear that we’re not speaking the same language in terms of what they came back to us with.”
"There's obviously been an acknowledgment that we have issues. There has been an acknowledgment, or an acceptance if you will, that we're going to have a cap system. But, in terms of how we're looking at the world, and I say this on a broader sense as it relates to the government and the health and everything else, we're not on the same page."
“No one wants to play more than me, and I know that's what our citizens want. But the system must be fixed.”
Democrats were disappointed in the new confrontational approach from Bettman and Congressional Republicans.
“Hiring Bettman to save government is the icing on the cake, so to speak,” quipped incoming Native American Senator Elizabeth Warren. “The GOP has tipped its hand and revealed that it has no intention of bargaining in good faith on these issues. Bettman wouldn’t know good faith bargaining if it slammed him into the boards. Bettman is perfectly willing to cancel the entire government for the year. That’s what the GOP wants, too.”
Senator Harry Reid countered that the inclusion of Bettman sets negotiations back years, and he emphasized that Democrats have put several previously non-negotiable items on the table, such as entitlements. He insisted that progress towards avoiding the cliff was being made, but Bettman represents a poison pill in finalizing a deal.
“I will personally recommend that members take the government to Europe and play there until this gets sorted out. We just want to legislate.”
Some Senate Democrats said they would consider the radical approach of voting to decertify the Congress, a procedural move designed to give them more leverage in future fiscal cliff talks.
Meanwhile, fans of good government wait.