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The Moment of Decision for the House GOP and An Alert On The Coburn Talks

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What we have been covering all week on the radio show has finally burst into the view of the MSM. Even CNN has now figured out that the debate over spending within the House GOP caucus is hugely important. The vast class of House freshmen know that if they budget cuts delivered in the final CR are not more than $100 billion they will be either primaried in less than 20 months or flogged with “broken promise” charges in their campaign for re-election in districts newly redrawn because of the census.

My new column deals with the specifics, but the bottom line is that the freshmen with their handful of more senior budget cutting allies like Arizona’s Jeff Flake and California’s John Campbell must simply demand the deep cuts necessary to get a minimum $100 billion cut in the final CR –not just the CR sent to the Senate– or mount a caucus revolt against the leadership which, even if it fails, signals that the current leadership will be face retirement or replacement in November 2012 regardless of the election cycle that unfolds over the next two years.

Early reports on a new “deal” on deficit reduction are not reassuring as it looks like more budget double-talk, using the non-existent Obama budget from last year as a measuring stick. The Pledge to America said roll-back to pre-stimulus levels, meaning the FY 2008 budget. The House GOP needs to publish that budget and a comparison chart, and get that number to at least $100 billion. What part of “credibility” doesn’t the communications team understand?

The freshmen have to lead, not be led. It is quite clear that the Beltway Republicans still have a stranglehold over the caucus, a stranglehold that will see them survive in their safe districts while the freshmen get tossed overboard for not delivering on their pledges.

Which brings me to this excerpt from my interview with Senator Tom Coburn yesterday, which began with my question about whether a comprehensive solution to the spending crisis was in the offing:

TC: Well, I think, you know, we can have the confrontative exercise, but we’re working hard behind the scenes. I am, with Democrat colleagues and Republicans, and the President, to try to build something that we can all agree on that will march us down this road to austerity, and send the signal to the international financial markets that we get it. You realize, the ten year Treasury bill has gone up a half a percent in the last two and a half weeks?

HH: Yup, yup. And that’s…

TC: Interest rate rises are coming, we’re debasing our currency, we’re going to see hyperinflation, hyper-unemployment, and a decline in GDP 8-10% if we don’t fix this.

HH: How close to an agreement are you, and what does it look like? I only have about a minute and a half…

TC: Well, we’re a ways, we’re working. I talk to the President every ten days or so. What we’ve got to do is get consensus among Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, and then get the consensus among the Democrats and Republicans in the House, and get consensus among the President. And it’s a hard thing to do, because people are protecting political turf. And here’s it in a nutshell. Are people in Washington willing to do what is best for this country’s future, and give up their seat? Or would they rather stay here and let the country squander?

HH: And does it involve tax hikes, Tom Coburn?

TC: Yeah, there’ll be some in terms of decline in benefit. But the overall net is your net tax will be decreased.

HH: You think this has a prayer?

TC: Yeah, I do.

HH: And what’s the timetable for taking the wrap off?

TC: Well, you’ve got to get the agreement before you take the wrap off. If you negotiate it in public, it’ll never happen.

HH: I agree, but are we talking four weeks, six weeks?

TC: As fast as I can work on it.

HH: Well, God speed, Senator Tom Coburn. I look forward to talking to you about it. Thanks for joining us.

Tom Coburnb is a great senator, but other great senators brought us the immigration deal in 2006 which sunk the majority and destroyed the country’s confidence in the Beltway elite’s ability to hear it on immigration.

Any mega-deal on spending has to be advanced with humility to the public, with genuine outreach to key experts. The ghost of Dick Darman is hovering over these talks, and the more people Tom Coburn and any other Republican involved consult, the better.

The Democrats have a long track record of promising spending cuts that never come in exchange for tax hikes that are immediate. Not this time. The country will not stand for it.



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