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The Dithering of the House GOP

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Michael Barone writes that the GOP need not fear the “The Shutdown 2.0!” He is right, and not just because of the enormous change in the shape of the communications overstructure between 1995 and now.

“We’re in a different political environment now in two important respects,” Barone writes. “The first is the media. There was no Internet or blogosphere in 1995; Fox News Channel did not start until October 1996; talk radio was in its infancy, with Rush Limbaugh already an important national voice but with few other conservative hosts on the air.”

All true, though the Beltway GOP still hasn’t figured out that ten minutes on a national talker serves them much more than a half hour on Meet the Press which while watched by the D.C. elites has no traction in the country.

What matters much more than the new information delivery systems, however, is the recognition by the public that spending must be cut dramatically or the country faces a real peril. This is the strategic difference between 1995 and today, and one which the House GOP is undercutting with its stroll through the four months since November 2. The House GOP immediately adopted the old House calendar and waited for the president’s FY 2012 budget which turned out to be an absurd party trick but which wasted a huge amount of time. Now it has bought into a two week extension of current spending after the Senate went off on a vacation rather than consider the House’s CR for the balance of the year. And still there isn’t even the outline of a budget for FY 2012 out of the Budget Committee. Chairman Ryan promises big cuts to entitlements and deep carving of discretionary spending, but those goals have to get on to paper before the various appropriation subcommittees can get started, and the real test won’t come until those subcommittees bring forth their work product to the full committee and the full committee gets them to the floor and from the floor to the Senate where they will languish until the conference committee of the House and the Senate meets and either decides that the country’s demand for austerity in federal spending must be met or whether the Senate Democrats facing the 2012 electorate decide to face the voters having stonewalled the process.

The Vice Chair of the Budget Committee was my guest yesterday, and Scott Garrett is one of the good guys, one of the members of the Republican Study Committee that pushes the appropriators to look up from their plans for pork distribution and recognize the looming fiscal crisis.

But read the transcript of our conversation when it is posted here later today. There is no firm plan for when the FY 2012 budget will be revealed, no sense of urgency in pushing it along, and no outline yet of what sort of cuts will be coming down.

There isn’t a schedule, and there isn’t a plan that has been presented, explained and then presented again and explained again. It is as though no one is watching Wisconsin where Scott Walker is giving a tutorial in over-communication of the key arguments and the process he is following. No one knew what a “budget repair bill” was until two weeks ago. Now anyone with a remote control does, and Walker’s position is the much stronger for it.

The House GOP is blowing its chance to lead by argument, trusting in the old process and the old schedule that reflects an already vanished era when a superpower’s indifference to world markets was standard operating procedure.

The Beltway GOP really appears not to know how it appears to the grass roots –weak and fearful, and above all playing a pat hand. They are actually back-slapping each other because Senate Democrats and the president agreed to a two-week extension with $4 billion in cuts! That’s a first down in a game in which your team is down by three touchdowns.

The House GOP needs to go deep and it needs to go no huddle. Now. Not in May, and certainly not in October.


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