While there are all sorts of actions people can take to signal that they are trustworthy, sometimes simply making a promise can get the job done. When two parties will be dealing with each other for an indeterminate amount of time it is advantageous to both if they are viewed as trustworthy. Lying would mean being punished in the future by the other party. In this way, talk isn’t simply cheap–it’s a credible signal.
Case in point, the potential reconciliation of the Health Care Reform bill:
Now, it’s true that the Obama administration achieves its policy goals once the House passes the Senate bill, and doesn’t need a follow-up reconciliation bill except insofar as it’s necessary to guarantee House passage. But the reconciliation bill is going to consist of a lot of popular provisions that Democrats will be eager to vote for — canceling the Cornhusker Kickback, boosting middle-class tax credits, delaying the excise tax and instead raising taxes on the rich.
Moreover, the House is only going to pass the Senate bill first if it gets ironclad assurance on the reconciliation bill from the administration and the Senate. Why would Obama and the Senate nakedly double cross the House? It would mean never being able to pass a piece of legislation again. The reputations of the double-crossers would be destroyed, both inside Washington and, to a lesser extent, nationally. No remotely rational politician, no matter how evil, would do something like that.
What makes (or, would make) this a credible signal of trustworthiness by Senate Democrats? Continue reading