Green Room

Hm: Should Republicans put forth Simpson-Bowles?

posted at 4:19 pm on November 30, 2012 by

Guy and I talked about this the other night, and I kinda like the idea, when compared to our other, dismal options at the moment. Hear him out.

Simpson-Bowles, for all its faults, was conducted in an open and transparent manner and brought disparate political players into a room to forge a serious compromise. It overhauls and streamlines our byzantine tax code, takes some important first steps on entitlements, and reduces and caps federal spending. On substance, I’d wager that it would be considerably better than anything Obama and Boehner might produce after weeks of behind-closed-doors acrimony with the proverbial gun to their heads. Politically, it paints Democrats into a tough corner. Republicans could make a grand show of reluctantly supporting Simpson-Bowles for the betterment of the country. Ideally, the press conference would be led by Paul Ryan, who might explain why he voted against the plan as a commissioner, but is now willing to set aside some of his strong ideological preferences to move the nation forward. They would remind viewers that the proposal they’re now backing only exists because President Obama specifically and publicly asked for it. Plus, more Democrats than Republicans voted for it, including Harry Reid’s top lieutenant in the Senate. Put simply, Simpson-Bowles represents the very embodiment of bipartisan collaboration and problem solving — precisely the sort of thing “moderates,” the media, and the public are always demanding. It would be exceedingly difficult for Democrats to paint the plan as radical or draconian in light of the commission’s origins and participants. The GOP’s “party of no” problem would also be hugely diminished; after all, they would have just signed on to the president’s commission, with the previously recalcitrant Paul Ryan magnanimously leading the way. It would be fascinating to watch the president and his allies try to denounce and reject the very proposal he called for.

There are things I don’t like about Simpson-Bowles, but here’s the thing. Simpson-Bowles was bad compared to the Ryan plan, which we are not passing in the near future. But it is far more responsible than what Obama’s offering at the moment, which is a total joke, and I can’t imagine you’ll get anything better for Republicans and conservatives even if Boehner and Obama did hammer out some grand bargain in the next couple weeks. The Left hates it, but Obama and Democrats have paid so much lip service to Simpson and Bowles being responsible and sober, they’d have trouble sidestepping this offer. The media would have trouble portraying it as unreasonable or Republicans as obstructionist (though I’m sure they’d try!). Cue the brutal Democratic infighting, which leads to what exactly? Obama repudiating his own commission’s plan in favor of some half-formed farce he came up with behind closed doors?

If it’s true that “Republicans are so screwed,” and liberals like Howard Dean think going over the cliff is the best deal for progressives, this is worth a thought or two. And, politics aside, I think it actually would be better for the country than going over the cliff or doing a horrible deal with Obama. All right, get to fighting in comments!

Update: There’s a big blog post on the main blog now, if y’all want to go comment there.

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