In advance of Sunday’s big meet on the potential big deal, the Washington Post runs “Lament for a Beltway Insider,” which it chose to actually title “In debt talks, leaders pressured from below.” (The online jump changes that title to “Progressives and tea party lawmakers pressure leaders on debt deal,” but the point is the same –the leadership is being told by the party not to compromise.)
How awful for the tax gatherers to have to govern in an era when they cannot pretend not to know what their voters think. Those voters know everything, and they have been communicating it.
Which ought to leave Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor two choices on Sunday if the president doesn’t arrive ready to focus exclusively on cutting non-defense spending deeply.
The first choice is saying “no” and leaving when “revenue enhancements” or defense cuts are brought up a second time after firm rejection the first time.
Or saying “Time to consult the public so let’s lay your outline out for consideration and input.”
If a final “deal” is reached in secrecy on Sunday, the GOP will have lost and the GOP revolt against its leaders will have to begin.
Some smart people tell me to trust the Speaker who is playing a strong hand. The big fold in the spring makes this difficult to do, and others share the worry. (See Bill Kristol’s “A Sunday Sell Out?”)
GOP volunteers and the Tea Party base –best consulted via Tea Party Patriots and not some D.C. lobbying group claiming to be the Tea Party– expect the House GOP to win this round and the fall spending battles as well. The House has a veto over whatever happens and the House reflects the last election and the American people’s demand –loud, large and sustained– that the federal government be dramatically scaled back.
They did not vote to erase the home mortgage interest deduction, a disastrous idiocy cooked up by people with zero understanding of home values in the United States. Such a move would instantly devalue every house in America by more than 10%, further adding to the already steep drop in home values that has kept the recessionary feeling clamped into place.
They did not vote to eliminate the tax deduction for church giving or any kind of charitable giving.
They did vote to slice away vast parts of the federal bureaucracy, but they didn’t vote to cut the Pentagon. More cuts to the Pentagon endanger the country and will set off a revolt within the GOP quicker than any tax hike.
They would accept raising the retirement age and indeed cutting benefits a tiny bit.
They would cheer the adoption of Paul Ryan’s plan or any other plan that preserved medicare for current enrollees but made changes for those a decade or more away from retirement.
Medicaid should be handled by the states these voters say, and capped.
These are the obvious choices favored by a large majority of Americans. The House leadership has to insist on them or walk away.
The president can choose to run the risk of market chaos by forcing a collision with the debt ceiling, but it is possible to avoid that by doing the obvious things. The House can veto making it worse but the House can’t make the president fix the problems.
The House and Senate “progressives” are impotent and aren’t needed because any “deal” the GOP accepts needs only 13 Democratic votes in the Senate, and there at least 13 Democrats who know the game is over of printing hot checks and transferring wealth to the unions.
The GOP ought also to be getting the NLRB to lay off Boeing and let some jobs be created, an end to EPA imperialism and assorted other obvious steps that the federal bankruptcy should have brought about years ago.
The GOP should be dictating terms, not negotiating with the A Team that has brought about 9.2% unemployment after a spending binge unrivaled in recorded human history.
If the president says no and insists on his “compromise” the GOP leadership needs to march out and lay the details before the public. They are “representatives” after all and while not bound by plebiscites, they are bound by honor not to double-cross their supporters.
They can also bank on a pedantic president and an incoherent vice president stumbling and bumbling through some press avails and a growing public indignation at the left’s intransigence. We are far beyond the 18% of GDP that should at most be going to the feds. That’s the key fact. The president cannot change that fact, and if the GOP would adopt a little message discipline and even try to communicate the facts, they cannot lose the argument with the public that already agrees with them.
Monday will tell a lot, about the future of the country and the future of the House GOP. In the meantime, call the Speaker and the Leader and GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy at 202-224-3121, or tweet the Speaker via @JohnBoehner and the Majority Leader via @GOPLeader.
This is not the weekend to cut the grass.
UPDATE: Time’s Mark Halperin, with perfect pitch for a lefty Betway insider, sketches how it would have unfolded even four years ago, pre-the-netting-up-of-the-Tea-Party-and-9.2%-unemployment. His scenario, however, would lead to a House GOP Caucus revolt and Speaker Jordan.