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Grading the Unfolding Fiasco in the House: The GOP In Danger of Flunking

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The House of Representatives appears close to flunking its first major test in the era of the deficit crisis. The emerging outline of the spending bill as described by Politico’s David Rogers is a jumble of narratives, numbers and alleged reductions, but there is scant little in the way of “pelts on the wall” for the genuinely deficit-troubled as obvious black-hole boondoggles like Amtrack and the Legal Services Corporation are still being funded by billions borrowed on the backs of our children and grandchildren by an allegedly conservative House, and the big headline is that the National Endowment for the Arts is being cut by $22.5 million and the SEC is getting less money that it had hoped for.

This is the stuff of a conservative revolution and a new era of limits? Cutting NEA by what, a fourth or a third? (The NEA received $167 million in appropriations in 2010, but it is impossible to peg what baseline the $22.5 million is being deducted from at this point.) This is how the House GOP responds to the fiscal crisis on which they campaigned?

As I tried to explain to House Rules Chairman David Dreier yesterday, the GOP caucus has to win on two levels –with a significant rollback of overall spending, and with at least three significant defundings, trophies to put it bluntly, that mark the beginning of a new seriousness about the deficit, downpayments on the promises of the fall.

Not one Republican ran on a pledge to trim the budget of the NEA.

Not one ran on a CR of $1,087 trillion dollars. It is astonishing, really, how badly the new majority has bungled the messaging and the crucial need for speed.

Now it is in for an enormous shut-down fight with the Senate and the president over what? A billion here and a billion there? And they expect the Tea Party etc to rally to their banners? Unlike Wisconsin where Governor Scott Walker has agreed to battle the public employee unions over an enormous, culture changing set of laws, here the big shutdown battle will be over whether the NEA gets 70% of its budget or 100%. Amtrack’s not on the table. LSC isn’t either. Still no word on whether the round-heeled GOP chopped NPR and CPB to zero. The Pledge we were promised has become a paradigm of the new math loved by the left for so many years.

Fiasco. That is the word for it. I will spend most of today’s program on this subject, and I hope I am wrong about the way I see it setting up, but the Beltway sharpies and message consultants convinced the new GOP leadership to play the wrong game for the wrong prize, and to do so with the MSM as the referees and the score-keepers.

Meanwhile Tim Pawlenty is headed to Phoenix and the gathering of the Tea Party Patriots, where all of the House leadership should be next weekend. But I doubt any of them will go. That would require a great deal more political courage than is on display in D.C. this week.

Bottom line: Why would anyone fight for the House GOP’s version of the CR? Why would they get on a plane and go to D.C. to support Speaker Boehner in the negotiations with the Senate and the president? What’s the elevator pitch to the public? “We are cutting the Arts Endowment by 22.5 million! Rally to our flag.”

Astonishing.

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