Rush Limbaugh offered that off-hand endorsement of Marco Rubio after Florida’s newest Senator announced that he would oppose any more short-term spending bills in Congress. “What the hell is going on,” Rush wants to know, calling talk of another CR “crap”:
Meanwhile, Rubio has a few other ideas as well, notably to cut off the EPA’s efforts to expand its regulatory reach. His office announced earlier today that Rubio would attach an amendment to “every major bill” in the Senate to cut off funding for EPA enforcement of “job-destroying numeric nutrients regulations,” as well as rescind authority for spending of any unused stimulus funding.
On the issue of short-term CRs, Keith Hennessey disagrees [see update below], at least tactically:
The repeated-short-term-CR strategy is working to enact $2 B of savings per week. The strategy is not, however, resulting in any funding limitations on hot button Administration policies.
Let’s assume you’re a conservative Member who wants to do even more. You either want deeper cuts, or to enact them all now, or to enact a funding limitation rider. You threaten to oppose the next CR. Is your threat principled or strategic?
A principled position sounds like this: “I cannot in good conscience support a bill that [spends this much / funds bad program X.]” A strategic position sounds like this: “I hope that my no vote means no CR will pass. The resulting government shutdown will strengthen the hands of spending cutters in the longer-term negotiations.”
The principled argument sounds great to outside allies. But if it is not paired with a viable strategy, it is individually rewarding but likely to be counterproductive. Is it a good outcome if your principled no vote leads to a legislative result that spends more? You’ll feel better for having voted no, but the Nation will be worse off. If you don’t like your team’s strategy, try to change it.
If your vote is strategic, then please explain how you expect to win a public shutdown fight, and how that public battle will strengthen your leaders’ hand in negotiations with Leader Reid and Team Obama. Does your strategy rely on Republican message unity during the shutdown, or is it OK if now-unified Republicans split? Should a shutdown be accompanied by a public message of “We regret that Democratic refusal to cut spending has forced the government to shut down,” or instead “We shut down the government and it’s not that bad?”
Conservative Members who simply say what they individually won’t do (vote for the next CR), should explain what they want their party leaders to do in response. As an outside supporter of deep spending cuts, I care less about your individual vote than I do about the policy outcome. How will your threatened no vote lead to less government spending than the current strategy?
The crux will be whether Republicans or Democrats would win a game of chicken with a shutdown. I think both sides would lose somewhat, but Democrats didn’t even propose a budget for this fiscal year. As long as Republicans keep proposing a budget, they have the better argument. The CRs cut spending, but hardly enough to make a dent. Meanwhile, the continuing effort to build CRs will bog down legislative efforts at real reform in FY2012 by tying up legislative time and negotiating effort on a bill that should have been handled seven months ago.
Let the Democrats argue that a 1.6% in overall spending reduction is so radical that it requires them to shut down non-defense discretionary spending over it. Otherwise, they win by running out the clock and then leaving so little time for FY2012 budgeting that we’ll likely be back to CRs for that as well.
Update: In case there is any confusion, Keith agrees with and supports Rubio’s attempts to block the EPA on expanded enforcement. I had tried to be specific that I was returning to the issue of continuing CRs alone, but just in case anyone got confused in the segue, Keith’s disagreement only related to the CR itself.