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Memo to the GOP Retreat

Thursday, January 17, 2013  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

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Dear GOP Members:

This new article from The Hill suggests that you will lose the majority if you fight for entitlement reform in the course of the debt ceiling hike battle.

It also seems to suggest that you can keep the majority by not fighting with the president.

Tom Cole and Tom Davis are messaging you, not the public, that your jobs are endangered –or at least the fundraising pull, the staff and the offices that go with the majority– are at risk if the backbenches don’t quietly get behind whatever it is the Speaker wants to do.

Note that the entire piece is empty of policy prescription.  This is the problem.

You cannot agree on what you haven’t debated much less seen.  It is more than a little shocking that 10 weeks after the election you don’t have a bill to debate linking serious entitlement reform to a debt ceiling hike.

If the Speaker and everyone in the room was out arguing for (1) raising the age of Medicare eligibility to the same age as Social Security eligibility; (2) pushing up the Social Security age schedule a year or so more; (3) “chaining” CPI and (4) block granting Medicaid and preparing to pass a bill embodying those changes to send to the Senate along with a debt ceiling hike, you’d all be held in high esteem in your districts and by half the country.

Half the country, the liberal half that doesn’t care about the red ink for various reasons, would be angry that you were trying to protect the country against bond vigilantes, but you’d be doing the right thing and the people who elected you to address the spending gusher would be content.

You’d also be having a debate about what to do, not about how disorganized and leaderless you are.  The president never talks about process.  He talks about his proposals.  And as terrible as those proposals might be –no matter how disconnected they are from reality– they appear to be more serious than your Conference because your Conference doesn’t talk about anything.  The leadership never appears on air.

If Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers produced a CR that cut non-Defense spending by 5% and zeroed out a few things –small, but symbolic things like NPR or Planned Parenthood funding– you’d gain some strategic coherence as well.

If you had even one piece of immigration reform/border security legislation ready to go through mark-up, that would also help.

If you come home from Williamsburg with Tom Cole and Tom Davis proclaiming a great victory because the caucus is unified behind the Speaker?  Without any policy to articulate and defend?  Well, that is asking for the primary challenge you are worried about and for another round of media cycle losses to the president. You can’t beat something with nothing, and proclamation of a unified caucus is worse than nothing.  It will be the occasion of ridicule.

Looks right now like Williamsburg may be another box canyon into which you all rode without a plan for getting out.  Hope I am wrong, but that Hill piece is a bad, bad sign.

I had a couple of smart guys on yesterday to talk about your collective communications crisis: The New York Times’ Ross Douthat and Ari Fleischer.  The transcripts of those conversations are here.  Ari is among you.  Read their points.  Talk to Larry, and Hillsdale’s Larry Arnn.

You need to pass some bills that embody your beliefs.  You all believe in the entitlement reforms above as at least a half-way house to a serious entitlement reform that preserves the programs.  Insist on getting a bill introduced on Monday, debated and passed in the next few days.  The debt ceiling endgame is almost upon you and you haven’t articulated what you want.

The CR is coming up as well.  No one has any idea what is in the bill that Chairman Rogers is negotiating.  When it is made public and it doesn’t slash dsicretionary spending outside of Defense, you are going to get hammered.  Again.  This is all foreseeable.

So enjoy your weekend.  The messengers sent from the Speaker to soften you up have dutifully delivered the message through The Hill.  Incredible as it seems, the plan is to have no plan.  I don’t think that is going to work in your districts because it won’t do anything for the country.

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