A scant few months after the Paul Ryan budget redefined the boundaries of conservative fanaticism, the Republican Party’s new “Cut, Cap, and Balance” Constitutional Amendment makes that document seem quaintly reasonable. Ezra Klein sums up the policy:
Ronald Reagan’s entire presidency would’ve been unconstitutional under CC&B. Same for George W. Bush’s. Paul Ryan’s budget wouldn’t pass muster. The only budget that might work for this policy — if you could implement it — would be the proposal produced by the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee. But that proposal was so extreme and unworkable that a majority of Republicans voted it down.
37 House Republicans and 12 Senate Republicans have pledged not to support a debt ceiling increase unless the CC&B Constitutional Amendment passes. Mitt Romney has signed this insane pledge. Ramesh Ponnuru has some gentle questions:
Representative Mick Mulvaney, a freshman Republican from South Carolina who is a leading supporter of the amendment, said in an interview that if “the president wants this debt-ceiling increase, he’s going to help us get the votes.” He argued that Obama should deliver 50 Democratic votes in the House and 20 to 30 in the Senate. “That’s a good compromise for both sides.”
Does the congressman think that 50 Republicans would vote for a constitutional amendment that contradicts everything they stand for if President Romney asked them to?
What a congressman who pledges to increase the debt limit only if a spending-limit amendment passes is really saying is that he opposes increasing the debt limit. Because there is no way that two-thirds of Congress is going to pass this amendment now, or ever.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the CC&B amendment is the casual way in which it attempts to enshrine specific spending levels and to freeze current taxes into the Constitution. I would like to see its advocates explain why it is necessary for the Constitution to require their agenda. What is keeping the public from electing officials who will enact this agenda? If people want to enact policies like this, why not just let them do it? And if they don’t, why force these policies upon them?
By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, July 19, 2011
I guess this was inevitable.
John Boehner was driven to tears again today. This time it happened at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans.
According to sources inside the meeting, it happened while Boehner was speaking to the group about the latest on his negotiations with Democrats over government funding. Boehner talked about his meeting yesterday with President Obama and then, in a rousing conclusion, he thanked the House Republicans for standing by him and supporting him through these tense negotiations.
The Republican conference responded with a standing ovation for their speaker.
As you could imagine, that prompted the Speaker to cry.
Sure, but is there any chance the crying could become tears of joy after striking a deal? Time is obviously running out in a hurry — we’re now counting down by the number of hours, not the number of days — but there’s been some movement this afternoon.
Roll Call reported that the party’s leaders are at least talking again, and “there were indications that progress was being made.” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters, “I feel better about it today than I did yesterday at the same time.”
This was not a unanimous view. Politico reported that “leaders from both parties are more pessimistic about cutting a deal before the government runs out of money.”
There was reportedly some progress on the spending-cut target. Boehner moved the goalposts this week, demanding $40 billion in cuts after agreeing privately to $33 billion, but top aides today apparently met to explore another compromise between the two numbers. The bigger hurdle, apparently, is the GOP demand for policy “riders,” which right-wing House Republicans continue to treat as having equal importance to the cuts themselves.
How party leaders can work around this is a mystery to me.
The odds notwithstanding, if a compromise is reached, what about the rule GOP leaders imposed on themselves, mandating that a bill is available for three days before a vote? In this case, Republicans are prepared to waive the rule, if there’s a deal to even vote on.
In the meantime, the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity held a rally this afternoon across the street from the Capitol, with several dozen right-wing activists on hand to listen to speeches from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), and others. The Republican voters chanted, “Shut it down!” during the rally, and every other sign at the rally urged the GOP to shut down the government.
I think we can say with confidence which side of the aisle is “rooting for a government shutdown.”
By: Steve Benen, Political Animal, Washington Monthly, April 6, 2011
Suppose I told you that I knew of a simple way to alleviate the budget deficit problem, and that it would require Congress not to do anything at all. You’d conclude that this was the poor start to a late April Fools’ column.
But unhappily the April Fools’ joke unfolding in the nation’s capital is the fantasy budget and spending debate itself. It’s rooted in an unreality that is about to crash into an unyielding real world, possibly in the form of a government shutdown.
The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan fiscal scorekeeper, projects the budget deficit will be $1.5 trillion this year, or 9.8 percent of gross domestic product. In order to achieve budget stability and sustainability, according to economists, that figure should be around 3 percent of GDP. But here’s the good news: The CBO projects that the deficit will “drop markedly over the next few years as a share of output and average 3.1 percent of GDP from 2014 to 2021.” We’re saved! And it gets better: “Those projections . . . are based on the assumption that tax and spending policies unfold as specified in current law.”
In other words, all Congress has to do is what they seem ideally suited to these days—nothing. Ah, but there’s the rub. CBO continues that its projections “understate the budget deficits that would occur if many policies currently in place were continued, rather than allowed to expire as scheduled under current law.” Those policies include the Bush tax cuts. They also include annual spending punts that enjoy broad bipartisan support, like preventing the Alternative Minimum Tax’s bracket creep from snagging the middle class, and the “doc fix,” which pushes back a scheduled cut in Medicare payments.
So the solution isn’t so simple. But lawmakers wishing to do more than talk about dealing with the deficit could demand offsets for these policy changes. Instead, we’re reminded of the reality that even the toughest self-styled budget hawks–including Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who describes dealing with the deficit as a “moral imperative” but advocates extending the Bush tax cuts in full in perpetuity at a cost of nearly $4 trillion–are actually strutting budget peacocks more concerned with perception than results, or fiscal results anyway.
Take, for example, the Republican Study Committee, the hawkiest of the GOP budgetary birds of prey and enforcers of the party’s economic dogma. Going by reputation, they should be able to proffer a budget plan to bring the deficit into line. But the Concord Coalition, a group focused on eliminating the deficit, last month used CBO numbers to examine a scenario under which the Study Committee got its tax-and-spending wish list, which includes an extension of the Bush tax cuts, repeal of the Obama healthcare law (which CBO scores as a money-saver, meaning that repeal adds to the deficit), and $2.7 trillion saved in a spending freeze and cuts. The result? “Under this scenario, the resulting deficits would be $2.1 trillion larger over 10 years,” according to Concord, which concludes, “A budget that uses honest numbers and reflects Republicans’ current policy preferences will result in large continuing deficits.”
But nevertheless, and in the face of six recent years of GOP control over both the White House and Congress, Republicans have won the budget perception battle, and soundly. A poll released last week by Democracy Corps, a group of prominent liberal pollsters including Stan Greenberg and James Carville, found that independent voters are “still hesitant to trust Democrats on spending.”
Meanwhile the debate in Washington has focused almost entirely on spending cuts, even though polls show that voters are more concerned about jobs and the economy than the budget and the deficit—and even though most economists agree that the GOP’s proposed spending cuts would set back the recovery.
But the clearest example of the GOP having the Democrats on the run can be found in the current negotiations aimed at averting a government shutdown in a week. House Republican leaders originally wanted $32 billion in spending cuts for this year; that figure prompted a conservative backlash that ended with the House passing $61 billion in cuts. Now, according to press reports, negotiators have settled on $33 billion in cuts. In other words, the GOP, which controls one of three players in this negotiation, has already achieved its original budgetary goal. In this regard, House Speaker John Boehner seems to have (intentionally or not) used his Tea Party wing as a perfect foil to pull the debate to the right.
But judging by last Thursday’s Tea Party demonstration on the Hill—aimed at the GOP, mind you—conservatives don’t seem capable of banking their win and moving on to the next fight. They see anything less than total victory as an abject surrender.
And in that sense reality is about to intrude upon their budgetary-political fantasy land. The reality is that while voters like spending cuts in the abstract, polls show they object to the particulars of the GOP agenda. That reality is already taking hold at the state level where, Politico reported last week, the wave of newly elected governors trying to get tough on budgets have seen their approval ratings collapse.
And the experience of state governments also provides an insight into the possible winners and losers in a government shutdown. A pair of political scientists published a paper last year looking at the effects of such budgetary breakdowns (167 of them since 1988) at the state level, reports the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein. The study found that voters tend to punish legislators while rewarding the executive. So a shutdown would benefit President Obama while hurting lawmakers in both parties.
So if members of Congress let the government shut down on Friday, they will be the real April fools.
By: Robert Schlesinger, U.S. News and World Report, April 6, 2011