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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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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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