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What does it take to reach a deal like the one brokered by Democrats and the GOP?


What does it take to reach a deal like this one brokered by Democrats and Republicans? Let's turn to Kenneth Feinberg. He's been involved in resolving some of the nation's most protracted and emotional disputes. Notably, he served as special master and independent arbiter for the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund. Good morning.


FADEL: Thanks for being here. So these debt and spending negotiations were conducted behind closed doors. If you could paint a picture for us of what a difficult negotiation looks like - like this one.

FEINBERG: Well, a difficult negotiation is defined as a negotiation involving a major issue under the gun of a time frame.

FADEL: Yeah.

FEINBERG: And that's exactly what you had here. There was a deadline. One can feint and parry and sort of keep your powder dry until you approach what everyone agrees upon is a very important deadline to get the negotiations finished. And that's exactly what occurred here under the wire, with people negotiating behind closed doors, knowing that they either get a deal or there are serious consequences.

FADEL: Yeah. And in that time period, Democrats accused Republicans of holding the country hostage. Republicans said Democratic spending was to blame. How much of the trading of accusations, the multiple breakdowns in the negotiations, how much of that was a show?

FEINBERG: Well, I wouldn't call it a show. I would call each side trying to maximize its leverage by warning the other side that there would be profound consequences. And I think that that's a standard tactic in effective negotiation, leading with your heavy armor, warning the other side that they will be to blame as to those consequences if a deal is not concluded.

FADEL: Is there a magic formula for reaching these kinds of deals?

FEINBERG: No, there's no magic wand. There are a couple of items you can check off on an agenda. There's a deadline. It's a very important issue. Do you have the right people behind those doors with the authority - the perceived authority to cut the deal? Very important. Each side is only as candid as its belief that the other side has the right people there with authority to settle. Now, the big question that's open that you have raised in your show - can each side deliver?

FADEL: Right.

FEINBERG: You know, it's very important that people believe that when you negotiate, you have authority to deliver as a result of the negotiations, and we will see over the next day or two whether the administration and the Republican Congress can deliver on this negotiated settlement.

FADEL: On that note, what would your advice to Republicans and Democrats be right now as they try to get their colleagues on board to pass through - this through Congress quickly?

FEINBERG: What's the alternative? I mean, you delegated to us the authority to negotiate. We've done that negotiation. We believe we have a pretty good barometer as to what you'll accept, and we have negotiated under the shadow of that authority. Now, for you now to tell us at the 11th hour and 59th minute that we can't deliver, our credibility will be seriously undercut.

FADEL: Does this deal strike you as a genuine compromise, or did one side get more out of it than the other?

FEINBERG: Oh, I think it's a genuine compromise. You know, in an effective negotiation, you walk away saying, I didn't get all that I wanted. I gave up an awful lot. But at the end of the day, the reasonable parties reached an agreement.

FADEL: Kenneth Feinberg is an attorney specializing in conflict resolution. Thank you for your time and your insights.

FEINBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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