In response to recent power struggles and stand-offs in Congress, most notably House Speaker John Boehner’s dare to the Senate to not return to Washington to negotiate with House Republicans, National Journal interviewed Harvard law professor Robert C. Bordone to get his opinion on Congress’s approach to negotiation.
When asked to give his estimation of Congress’s skills, Bordone said that “this probably won’t surprise you or anybody, but I would give them a really bad grade.” He then goes on to compare their brinkmanship to a “classic game of chicken.” Republicans may sometimes be ranked as better negotiators by these standards, but according to Bordone, this zero-sum approach eliminates a great deal of potential benefits. More advantageous than seeing which side can go longer without blinking, he says, would be to develop creative ways to increase value for both sides while also improving the relationship. This way, everyone walks away from negotiations with something they’re happy about, and the negotiation process is more likely to go smoothly next time.
However, Bordone also points out that the constant media attention Congress receives presents a challenge with which most other negotiators don’t have to contend. As he explains, “I don’t think you find any negotiation expert who will tell you, if you want to reach a negotiation, bring everyone into a giant room and let all of the cameras in there.”
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