Actually, says Rich Lowry, they’re “almost” in open revolt, which means … I’m not sure.
We’re hearing that the Republican Study Committee and GOP freshmen were almost in open revolt at the Republican conference this morning over the initial round of cuts set out by Paul Ryan. The Ryan ceiling falls shorts of the headline number of $100 billion set out in the Pledge, and is therefore considered vastly insufficient. Says a source familiar with the meeting, “It sent a clear unequivocal message to leadership — ‘Houston, you’ve got a problem.’” The leadership assured conservatives at a RSC lunch later in the day that the message had been received. Says a GOP leadership aide, “The bill that passes the House will cut substantially more.”…
A GOP aide close to House conservatives tells NRO: “If the bill that comes to the floor next week does not get to the $100 billion mark ($378 billion in total non-security spending for the year), our plan has always been to offer an amendment to close the gap. So if they come in at $420 billion for non-security, we’d go for another $42 billion in cuts to get down to the $378 billion total. Leadership has said that their plan is just the ‘first bite at the apple.’ We understand that, but a lot of conservatives just think the first bite needs to be bigger.”
Cantor claimed after today’s lunch with Obama that “we’re serious about cutting spending,” but the rebellion against the GOP’s proposal was already underway last night when Jeff Flake and Cynthia Lummis voted against it on the Appropriations Committee because it didn’t go far enough. They want to cut $100 billion this year, the figure Republicans initially promised to trim in the Pledge to America before they started inching away from it and settled on the new figure of $58 billion. Which is super, but even that larger figure is less than 10 percent of the $1.5 trillion deficit that’s projected for this year. It’s a token cut, more significant as a signal to the base that “we mean business” than a meaningful dent in fiscal insanity.
I think it’s this simple: If a Balanced Budget Amendment doesn’t gain serious traction in Congress soon — the debt ceiling debate might be its only hope — then realistically only a fiscal catastrophe will force the feds to balance their books. Even Rand Paul, who’s pushing a whopping $500 billion in cuts, acknowledges that that’s merely a first step given the magnitude of the problem. In fact, I wonder if the “open revolt” is a bit of kabuki being practiced by the House GOP to make them look like uncompromising hardliners on spending despite the fact that the deeper cuts they’re demanding are still comparatively insignificant. The media’s practicing that kabuki too: Behold CNN describing the proposed cuts of $58 billion as “massive” even though that figure represents just three percent or so of this year’s deficit. And here’s a new piece from National Journal lamenting the fact that Obama’s budget proposal would cut $3 billion in federal energy assistance to the poor, which will achieve instant talking-point status on the left as a rationale for deficit spending into oblivion.
Kent Conrad, who made himself a lame duck a few weeks ago when he said he won’t run again, is going to take a shot today at convincing Senate Democrats that the debt really, truly is a looming disaster that needs to be dealt with ASAP. That’s also super, but the only way to seriously deal with the debt is through entitlement reform, and neither party will be touching that with a presidential election next year. (That’s why they keep tossing this political football around.) But even talking about it is progress at this point. I think. I hope?