In interviews with numerous GOP lawmakers, members spoke with confidence – and acceptance – of the fact that the House will soon approve a short-term deal to raise the debt-ceiling and force Democrats to the negotiating table…
Still, with the debt-ceiling deadline looming next week, and markets warily watching Congress’s every move, some GOP lawmakers are against attaching anything “objectionable” for fear the Senate would reject it. In fact, some conservatives are quietly whipping support for something being called the “four-plus-four” plan, which would simultaneously pass “clean” four-week versions of a continuing resolution and debt-limit increase. The proposal, which would establish binding guidelines for talks between House Republicans and the White House and Senate Democrats, is intriguing to some Republican lawmakers…
But this proposal — which is also attractive to some members because it would also reopen the government — stands little chance of gaining majority support among Republicans, many of whom refuse to pass any clean debt-ceiling increase because of the precedent it would set. Several conservative members, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to offend their colleagues, flat-out dismissed the idea.
“That’s never gonna happen,” said one GOP lawmaker.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan pitched members at the Republican Study Committee meeting just now on a process for how the impasse with President Obama over the debt ceiling could end.
Ryan told members that if Obama comes to the table and the two sides can reach an agreement in principle, the House could pass a six-week continuing resolution and debt ceiling extension to give time for the legislation implementing the agreement to be written.
The agreement would be along the lines of what Ryan proposed in his op-ed in this morning Wall Street Journal, a framework that had earlier been discussed privately by GOP leadership.
Reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code will spur economic growth—another goal that both parties share. The CBO says stable or declining levels of federal debt would help the economy. In addition, “federal interest payments would be smaller, policy makers would have greater leeway . . . to respond to any economic downturns . . . and the risk of a sudden fiscal crisis would be much smaller.”
This isn’t a grand bargain. For that, we need a complete rethinking of government’s approach to helping the most vulnerable, and a complete rethinking of government’s approach to health care. But right now, we need to find common ground. We need to open the federal government. We need to pay our bills today—and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow. So let’s negotiate an agreement to make modest reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code.
This is our moment to get a down payment on the debt and boost the economy. But we have to act now.
Is Paul Ryan a RINO?
Some conservatives were howling over Ryan’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday where the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee and current chair of the House Budget Committee suggested his plan to solve the current stalemate in Washington over the government shutdown and debt ceiling. Ryan suggested significant entitlement reform and specifically pointed to areas where he thinks Democrats and Republicans can find consensus. But, despite talking about ways to cut government spending and implement tax reform, the Wisconsin congressman angered tea partiers by not mentioning the word “Obamacare” once…
But, among many tea partiers, the goal isn’t to get Congress to pass spending cuts and entitlement reform, it is to end Obamacare. And it doesn’t seem like they would accept anything else, even from a onetime right wing matinee idol like Ryan.
Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham Wednesday bluntly warned House Republicans that backing any deal to re-open the government and raise the nation’s debt ceiling that does not include defunding Obamacare is unacceptable — and they could pay the political price.
“Anything that comes out of this has to address the core fight, which is Obamacare,” Needham told reporters during a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
Needham, whose group has been central to drawing the conservative hard line, ruled out any agreement that includes other top priorities for conservatives — including tax reform and the Keystone XL pipeline — if it doesn’t also deal with Obamacare. “It’s not addressing the core fight here … [the] only acceptable way out is funding the government without funding Obamacare.”
It is simply absurd to suggest that we ignore Obamacare yet fight on other things for a number of reasons:
1) Social Security has been around since the ‘30s; Medicare has been around since the ‘60s; the tax system has been around for decades. We’re not getting rid of any of this any time soon. We are left with just a few ideas to tweak these programs. That opportunity is not going away any time soon. Obamacare, on the other hand, is just taking root now. Why would we ignore the most imminent threat for a long-term policy problem?
2) Social Security and Medicare are very popular, and people are leery of any changes, even ones that we think are positive. So we are going to ditch the fight over Obamacare, which is extremely unpopular, to fight for Medicare reform? Really, Paul Ryan? And they think we are politically stupid?
3) How in the world are we going to implement Medicare premium support on top of a healthcare system built on Obamacare? If you are a Republican who believes the fight against Obamacare is lost, which is presumably the view of Paul Ryan, then stop deluding yourself into thinking we will implement Medicare reform.
Ryan has proposed important and necessary reforms, but conservatives are right to protest. His proposal abandons the GOP’s quest to seek reforms to the Affordable Care Act – ostensibly, the impetus for the shutdown in the first place. If the GOP abandons any push for reforming the ACA through this shutdown fight, it will isolate the forces within the party whose actions resulted in the shutdown in the first place. While some may see this as a desirable outcome today, it could have far-reaching ramifications for the stability of the party and its populist appeal in the long run…
It will demonstrate that the GOP is, as ever, more concerned with perennial budgetary gripes than the pocketbook issues average Americans are struggling to contend with. Furthermore, the GOP will appear flighty, unfocused, and wracked by factionalism. While these may be accurate descriptions of the state of the party at present, it would be folly for the GOP’s leadership to embrace them outright…
If the GOP takes this route, it will only isolate the conservative members of the Congress who view the ACA as an existential threat to the country. They will be made more fractious, less amendable to reason and control, and may prevent the party from picking the next fight at a time of their choosing. It would also be a political setback for the party. There are few redeeming traits associated with this government shutdown, but Republicans appearing to mount a noble last stand against an unpopular law is one of them.
But there’s a history here that cannot be ignored. President Obama and the speaker famously engaged in “grand bargain” talks for several weeks in the summer of 2011, only to fall short of reaching a deal when the president demanded, at the last minute, more tax hikes than the speaker could swallow. Moreover, during the 2012 campaign, the president campaigned relentlessly on the mega-theme that, in any budget deal, the rich would have to pay a lot more in taxes — even beyond the tax hikes included in the “fiscal cliff” deal of early January 2013.
It is therefore inconceivable that, in the current environment, the speaker could secure a budget agreement with the White House and Democrats that did not include significant concessions on taxes — concessions that would badly divide the GOP…
No doubt the speaker and his allies are looking for an end-game strategy on the CR and debt-limit fights that has a chance of producing a modest victory for the GOP. That’s understandable. But, at this point, they are better off sticking with the fight they already started over Obamacare than with pursuing broader budget talks that could easily backfire.
“Are you putting Obamacare to the side?” Bennett asked Ryan on his show Wednesday morning.
“No,” the congressman replied. “Obamacare’s an entitlement just like any other entitlement. So that, as far as we’re concerned, is in this conversation. Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, those are the big drivers of our debt. If you look in the op-ed, I say we have to — ultimately we have to rethink all of our nation’s healthcare laws.”
But, Ryan added, “I don’t know that within the next two weeks we have a viable strategy for actually repealing Obamacare, every piece of it.”…
“We’re not saying stop going after Obamacare,” he said. “We’re saying add these other things to this list because we think they’re in this country’s interest, and by the way, in some of these instances, entitlement reform, I think the president might be willing to do this.”
Bennett then asked Ryan to explain how adding issues to the discussion could possibly help compromise.
Bennett: The President has seemed intransigent. Now you are raising the stakes. Why, in heaven’s name, do you think he’d be less intransigent on this.
Ryan: He clearly wants to defend his health care law. We obviously don’t like it. That’s a pretty big impasse. But I do think he wants to see the economy grow. It is in his interest to see debt reduction. There are plenty of Democrats we talk to hear in the House and in the Senate that say let’s get some debt reduction. Let’s do tax reform. We don’t have Democcrats up here saying, let’s go after Obamacare. But we do have Democrats saying let’s get some debt reduction, let’s do entitlement reforms, let’s do these things we know can grow the economy.
A Senior House GOP source concedes to CNN that to get the White House on board with a debt ceiling deal, House Republicans would likely have to agree to a clean short term debt ceiling increase. In exchange, Republicans would need to get clear and specific parameters from the White House for discussions and negotiations on ways to reduce the debt and deficit.
This source believes that at the end of the day, enough people in the GOP caucus could be OK with this because the economic implication of breaching the debt limit “scares people.” This source also acknowledged that under this scenario, House GOP leaders may have to agree to pass a debt ceiling bill without all Republicans on board, and with Democratic support.
There was, as I’ve noted before, some kind of plausible populist case for threatening a shutdown around the health care law, as a kind of exercise in noisemaking and base mobilization. But the shutdown itself is just a classic march of folly. From RedState to Heritage to all the various pro-shutdown voices in the House, nobody-but-nobody has sketched out a remotely plausible scenario in which a continued government shutdown leads to any meaningful, worth-the-fighting-for concessions on Obamacare — or to anything, really, save gradually-building pain for the few House Republicans who actually have to fight to win re-election in 2014, and the ratification of the public’s pre-existing sense that the G.O.P. can’t really be trusted with the reins of government.
Sure, the polling could be worse. Sure, assuming cooler heads ultimately prevail, it’s not likely to be an irrecoverable disaster. But something can be less than a disaster and still not make a lick of sense. And that’s what we have here: A case study, for the right’s populists, in how all the good ideas and sound impulses in the world don’t matter if you decide to fight on ground where you simply cannot win.