Unable to find the Republican votes he needed for passage, House Speaker John Boehner pulled his debt ceiling plan off the floor for further patching and upgrades last night. Boehner 1.0 never made it out of beta testing, as the Congressional Budget Office scored its spending cuts lower than the debt ceiling increase it authorized. Boehner 2.0 crashed and locked up the House of Representatives. Boehner 3.0 will reportedly include features that make it Tea Party-compatible.
This is said to have “weakened” Boehner. The Tea Party and conservative stalwarts in the House are told they’re “embarrassing” or “killing” the Speaker. Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post calls them the “burn-the-building-down set.”
This is a puzzling analysis, because it portrays the Tea Party as lunging out of the shadows to tackle an unsuspecting Boehner as he brings “the best deal he can get” to Capitol Hill. On the contrary, the people who oppose the Boehner bill are the most forthright, honest, and consistent American political movement in generations. They couldn’t have been more clear about the reasons they marched to the polls and sent all those new Republicans to Washington in 2010… and it was not to cut a deal that would reduce the deficit from $1.7 trillion to $1.697 trillion immediately, with the hope that if all of its unenforceable future promises are realized, we’ll get the deficit down to $1.689 trillion in a couple of years.
If the resistance Boehner is encountering has “embarrassed” him, that’s his fault. If he’s genuinely surprised by it, he should be embarrassed. Did he think all of the Tea Party’s passionate demands for fiscal sanity and smaller government were just empty rhetoric, and they really just wanted more people with (R) after their names sitting in Congress when the American system goes down in flames?
The entire premise of this deal-making process is flawed. Once again, Washington negotiates with itself, while the people who pay the bills are locked out of the process, and told they’re unreasonable extremists for sticking to their principles.
The first rule of making a deal is to bid high, so you can negotiate down to what you really wanted. The acolytes of the monster State are very good at that, and they can rely on support from a media apparatus that will never describe their sky-high opening demands as “extremist” or “radical”. How were the people who just want a balanced budget to follow suit, especially when Washington regards the very concept of a balanced budget as ridiculous pie-in-the-sky extremism, barely worthy of discussion?
We started with the statists demanding that the national debt be doubled in 10 years. Conservatives said they want to balance the budget, which will prevent the debt from growing at all. “Oh, no, that’s insane,” they were told. “You extremist wingnuts have to compromise.” Well, the “compromise” turns out to be increasing the national debt by 90%. That’s how it always works. That’s why we’re cruising into fiscal collapse, and nobody seems able to take Washington off auto-pilot.
Charles Krauthammer expressed his intellectual sympathy with the balanced-budget crowd, but advised them to chill out and wait for 2013 to get anything done:
I have every sympathy with the conservative counterrevolutionaries. Their containment of the Obama experiment has been remarkable. But reversal – rollback, in Cold War parlance – is simply not achievable until conservatives receive a mandate to govern from the White House.
Exactly what part of the Obama experiment are we “containing?” We’re not even talking about reversal or rollback. We’re just talking about keeping Obama’s insane new budget baseline from blasting us through $20 trillion in debt before 2020. Wouldn’t “containment” involve getting the situation closer to it was when Obama took over, and deficit was described as appalling and unconscionable by the same people who want to institutionalize three times as much red ink?
Everyone knows what would have happened if Boehner’s plan passed: Harry Reid would slap a pile of his own garbage onto it in the Senate, and send it back. If Boehner didn’t give Reid everything he wanted, the headlines next week would scream that Republicans caused the government to “default.”
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats and our disgraceful President sit completely idle, offering no plans or proposals, just vague talk about something nifty Reid has been doodling in his private notebook. They could move legislation in the Senate, but they don’t. President Obama has never offered a specific proposal at all, not once during this entire crisis. But they’re in the drivers’ seat? They’re the ones who are guaranteed of getting at least 95% of what they wanted, plus Boehner’s signature to guarantee a “bipartisan” stamp on the absolutely inevitable financial collapse that will ensue, and a promise not to bother Obama with all this messy “insolvency” stuff again before he finishes his re-election campaign?
And yet, the people who don’t want to take that kind of “deal” are supposed to be naïve and intransigent.
There are rumors that Boehner 3.0 will contain more elements of the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act, the one and only real, honest-to-God plan to deal with the deficit. A balanced budget requirement is supposed to appear in there somewhere. I don’t know how that could happen before next Tuesday. That should have been part of the deal a long time ago, not five days before doomsday. We knew the debt ceiling was approaching a long time ago. Tea Party conservatives have been open, honest, highly visible, and principled participants in the national debate for years, but now they’re being told to shut up because they’re distracting the geniuses who gave us a $14 trillion national debt from coping with a last-minute ticking-clock crisis.