Thursday, October 17, 2013
Reflections on the Republican Budget Battle
House Speaker John Boehner said: “We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win.” No! They fought the wrong fight with the wrong strategy with no chance of success. The Republicans lost the shutdown fight in 1996 when they controlled both houses of Congress. Congressman Boehner and Senator McConnell were there. They foresaw the outcome this time when the Republicans had an split majority in the House and an unwilling minority in the Senate, coupled with a President who made it clear to his aides two years ago that he would never again made concessions in budget battles. Speaker Boehner is on record several times saying he would not let the government default. President Obama is on record saying he would not compromise. The President had a complicit majority in the Senate led by Senator Harry Reid, probably the smallest minded majority leader in the 20th Century. The Republican leaders also knew that the media would support the President. The Tea Party did not cripple the Republican struggle; the House republicans never had a chance in this debate. The media let the President play smallball, by shutting open air parks and monuments, while allowing the National Mall to be opened for a demonstration for immigration reform. Some visitors to national monuments were issued $150 tickets. The biggest mistake of the Republicans was strategic. The House should have passed several funding bills for individual agencies along the way, as was common practice in past Congresses, instead of letting them all come together at the end. They would have had more leverage if only a few spending bills remained. Defunding ObamaCare never had a prayer of a chance during this Administration. Incremental steps might have passed, such as a repeal of the medical devices tax. Forcing Congressmen and Senators to vote on eliminating the subsidies for their health care would be a winner. Instead the Republicans adopted an “all or nothing” approach. It might have had some success with a government shutdown, but not with a pending debt defult. President Obama called for a changed, cooperative approach today, after calling out Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, bloggers, and talk radio. He’s hardly acting as a conciliator who promised to be a post-partisan President bringing Americans together, after calling republicans terrorists, hostage takers, and holding the country up to ransom in the preceding weeks. Senator Barbara Boxer referred to the Republicans as domestic abusers. The President won. It’s better to be a gracious winner than pour salt into one’s wounds. His viciousness may cost him immigration reform in the House. He had earlier this term struck out on his major proposals, such as gun control, an increase in the minimum wage, and pre-school care. Senator Patty Murray (D. Wash) represents the Senate majority on the newly appointed joint budget committee. She said everything is on the table, which is Democratic lexicon for tax increases. Speaker Boehner has stated tax increases are off the table. Their report is due December 13. The last joint committee resulted in the sequester, which has survived to live another day. If the new joint budget committee does not reach results, the second round of sequestration will commence on March 1. We also saw that Washington has not changed. The 35 page, unread bill that sailed through Congress yesterday was loaded with expensive pork – up to $2.2 billion for a dam and locks on the Ohio River, $450 million for flood repairs in Colorado, $636 million for wildfire fighting, and a survivor benefit for the widow of a deceased Senator. The bill also included retroactive pay for the furloughed federal employees, who are due for a pay raise in January. Some of these provisions would probably have been approved by Congress, but only after going through the normal budget process. Representatives and Senators today expressed “shock – just shocked” at what they blithely approved without reading. The President and Senator Reid had cried out for a clean bill. The biggest casualty of the Republican budget battle was taking attention off the main issue for Republicans – the ObamaCare rollout debacle. The computer “Glitches” are turning into ObamaCare self-destructing. The Republicans should back out of the way, and use Darrell Issa’s committee to investigate the no-bid contract awarded to CGI Federal, which lost a similar contract in Canada for failure to perform. Even California’s Covered California under which people have been able to sign up, cannot tell potential applicants which doctors are in which plans. The President believes he won. The media proclaimed him the winner. The bill reopens the government only to January 15 and the borrowing authority of the government to February 7. The President believes that a weakened GOP will not reopen the battle next year. The President probably still believes he will get his remaining agenda during his next three years. He doesn't understand that he has poisoned the waters.