This is what we get from a new House Republican majority?
Republicans were ushered into power after the 2010 midterm elections for two reasons; they were charged with the job of controlling spending and terminating Obamacare. When they offered those bold promises, they knew they would only control one part of government. Yet they still understood that as majority of the House they would have full control over the budget process. Now, as we finish the 4th budget impasse of this Congress, it appears that Republicans are aiming for an incomplete grade on their assignments.
Republicans came into power promising to end Democrats’ unfinished FY 2011 budget by cutting $100 billion, in addition to defunding Obamacare, parts of the EPA, Planned Parenthood, and public broadcasting. As always, they started out with a bang, introducing their budget bill (HR 1) under an unprecedented open rule. The bill defunded those four entities, but oddly trimmed only $61 billion in baseline spending.
In what would turn out to be an ominous pattern for the rest of the year, Republicans chose a watered-down version of their initial pledge as a hill to die on and then failed to die on it. Ultimately, as they telegraphed to the Democrats an incorrigible fear of a government shutdown, they caved on every major policy rider, including Obamacare. Furthermore, the final FY 2011 CR, which passed in March 2011, only cut $37 billion in baseline spending and $352 million in non-Washingtonian spending.
We all understand that you can’t use your control over the budget process to force every last policy rider when you don’t control the rest of government. But they came into power with the country supporting their plan to defund Obamacare. If Obamacare is truly as destructive for the country as we said it is, how could we have passed up our first opportunity to actually do something about it? The fact that they were willing to continue funding Obamacare showed the American people that maybe termination of Obamacare wasn’t such an emergency.
But fear not, Republican leaders promised at the time that this was just child’s play. Wait until the debt ceiling fight, and we’ll really extract concessions from the Democrats.
We all know what happened with the debt ceiling vote on August 1, 2011. They gave Obama a free $2.1 trillion debt limit increase with only a few notional cuts. The only significant cuts were incurred by the military through the impending sequestration that Republicans are now embarrassed into trying to repeal.
Moreover, the debt ceiling deal totally undercut their leverage to fight in every ensuing budget battle. To that end, Republicans vitiated the Ryan budget in December 2011 in order to pass a FY 2012 omnibus that set spending levels according to the debt ceiling deal. In fact, the omnibus, which was voted on without being made public for 72 hours, actually breached those levels when extra “disaster relief” was included.
For the FY 2013 budget, Republicans went through the same motions in passing Ryan’s budget with the full intent of punting in favor of the Obama/Reid “budget” at the end of the fiscal year. Now, with less than three weeks to the fiscal year, we have made one final budget capitulation of the 112th Congress.
Despite the fact that the majority of Republicans have agreed to fund Obamacare throughout this Congress, we had an opportunity to make one last stand and rectify that mistake. This was the first budget bill since the Supreme Court upheld the law. We could have harnessed that outrage and refused to fund it. Instead, all but 70 Republicans passed the bill; the Senate will follow up later this week.
So when will we kill Obamacare?
Yes, of course! During the next budget battle in March.
Everyone somehow believes that, despite Romney’s tepid campaign, we’ll win back the White House and the Senate. Yet even if we succeed in this daunting and ever elusive goal, we will only have 51-53 seats in the Senate. Raise your hand if you think that all these same Republicans will be fully on board the reconciliation repeal rout?
Well, I have news for you. The road will not get any easier from here. If Republicans are scared of being blamed for political fallout when they only control one branch of government, will they be less tepid if and when they control all branches of government?
And one more thing. If Republicans can’t preempt the creation of a fourth permanent entitlement, is there any way they will have the moxie to push even for Paul Ryan’s watered-down Medicare reform plan (which was watered down from the original free-market voucher plan in the Roadmap)?
Then again, this is all a game to these people. It’s the red team versus the blue team. Forget about the purpose of the team in the first place.
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