Dems' new offer to GOP: How about $20 billion more in cuts for the rest of the year?

Combined with the $10 billion that’s already been cut as part of the two short-term budget resolutions that have passed, that would mean total cuts this year of roughly $30 billion — halfway between the GOP’s demand for $61 billion and the Democrats’ demand for, well, squat.

Serious tactical question: Is this worth doing?

The White House and Democratic lawmakers, with less than two weeks left to avoid a government shutdown, are assembling a proposal for roughly $20 billion in additional spending cuts that could soon be offered to Republicans, according to people close to the budget talks…

House Republicans are preparing a budget resolution for 2012 that would make major spending reductions in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and give states more flexibility in how they spend federal Medicaid money.

Separately, Senate GOP leaders are urging all 47 Republicans in the chamber to sign on to a proposed constitutional amendment to balance the budget and demand a vote on it.

Whether we cut $61 billion, $30 billion, or $1 billion, we’re still being hit with an avalanche of new debt. All three amounts are chump change vis-a-vis this year’s $1.5 trillion deficit. So why not make a deal on the current meaningless budget and focus all our energy on where the real money is — a balanced-budget amendment and entitlement reform, which will mean full-scale political war later this year? Philip Klein elaborates:

So the question facing conservative activists is whether to focus all their energies on the short-time budget fight that deals with $61 billion in cuts over the next several months, or place more emphasis the next fight that could affect spending for decades to come.

Many conservatives would argue that there isn’t a tradeoff involved — that if anything, if Republicans show themselves to be weak on the smaller immediate budget battle, that there’s no way they’d be able to tackle the real long-term budget challenges. And there’s certainly truth to that.

Yet there’s also the risk that if the government ends up shutting down on April 8, the public will blame Republicans (however unfairly) and suddenly the idea of cutting government spending will become unpopular. Under this scenario, it becomes a lot less likely that a chastened GOP would be willing to go to battle over the much thornier budget issues.

Paint me a picture in which the GOP makes a deal on the current budget and then, because of that deal, somehow finds itself unable to tackle entitlements and a balanced budget amendment. The base might tolerate a compromise on this year’s spending if it’s presented, accurately, as a bargain designed to take care of unfinished business and let them transition to the real war for solvency. The base will never tolerate the GOP refusing to take on the real long-term budget challenges, but that may be the position they find themselves in if they roll the dice now on a government shutdown and the public sides with Democrats. Why not try to shore up credibility with centrists now by agreeing to a meaningless compromise in order to preserve political capital for the big battle to come? They know if they run from that battle it’ll mean a third party; they have no choice but to fight and die if need be. Why not give them that chance instead of forcing a potentially catastrophic battle on this much, much smaller hill now?

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Jazz Shaw 5:31 PM on December 01, 2022