12/15/2014 09:41 am ET Updated Feb 14, 2015

Cromnibus Postmortem: Democrats Allowed Republicans to Gut Major Legislation

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It should have been a simple matter. Black and white. Not open to negotiation. Yet somehow, just like they did during the debt ceiling crisis that birthed the sequester, Democrats got played because the other side has convinced them that they'll destroy this village in order to save it.

All Democrats had to say was: No. No major legislation that we oppose in a budget bill. We can fight over the amount of funding for this or that, but you cannot pass new legislation or transform existing legislation unless you do what we did in 2008, namely win the White House and get majorities in both houses of Congress. That's how you get a mandate for major legislation.

But instead of saying no, the Democrats allowed Republicans to gut Dodd-Frank, the financial reforms we worked so hard to pass after the financial crisis of 2008. Unbelievable. And Democrats would have had a simple argument that the American people could follow: If you want to change major legislation or make new laws or that the other side opposes, win the White House and majorities in Congress. If you can't do it, then you don't get to make major changes. And if you want to shut down our government as blackmail, then have at it. But then it's on you.

Every single time Republicans threaten to shut down the government when they don't get what they want, we should let them, because every time they will end up forced to back down. The one thing that their ongoing extremism has done is cement in the mind of the American people that they are the crazy ones.

This is the dynamic we saw the last time they shut down the government in an attempt to repeal major legislation, i.e. Obamacare. They ended up with egg on their face. Why in the hell wouldn't Democrats follow the exact same playbook this time? All Democrats had to do was line up behind Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown and tell the GOP that they don't get to make major changes to our country's body of law without winning the White House as well as Congress. Period. But that's not what Democrats did. As for the impact of allowing the Cromnibus to pass, I'll let an unnamed Republican aide tell you what they've done: "If liberal Democrats vote for this package it shows that conservatives can use must-pass legislation to repeal the regulatory state."

In other words, they can use blackmail to pass laws they wouldn't be able to pass otherwise. But only because Democrats let them.