In a matter of three weeks, we have seen GOP leaders, writers, and pundits go from advocating that we punt on the tax fight in favor of fighting the debt ceiling fight to punting on the debt ceiling fight in favor of fighting over the CR a month later. To illustrate the absurdity of this line of thought, I thought it would be useful to pull up an article I wrote at Red State almost two years ago, after Boehner caved on the first budget fight of 2011:
Over the weekend, Speaker John Boehner showed that he is even more conservative than the Tea Party. While the petulant rubes in the Tea Party were credulously focusing on the ‘small potatoes’ of the 2011 budget, Boehner wisely decided to proceed to the real fight; the debt ceiling and the FY 2012 budget. In the process, he even secured $38 billion, or 1%, in cuts from this year’s budget, along with the funding for a D.C. voucher program.
In addition to being an intrepid conservative and a tenacious negotiator, Boehner is also a skilled mathematician. He knew from the very beginning that 38 billion is more than half way between 0 and 61 billion. Game over, Democrats lose! Even though half of the alleged cuts might comprise of Democrat cuts in mandatory spending, and another $10 billion might include the previous CR cuts, those are just minor points.
At this point, you may ask, what happened to those pesky little riders, like defunding Obamacare and EPA regulations; those little things that will cost the taxpayer, consumer, businesses, and healthcare providers trillions – if not billions – in expenditures over the next decade? You might wonder, what happened to the defunding of Planned Parenthood, preventing our tax money from killing babies? You might be perplexed concerning the absence of the NPR rider, preventing our tax money from servicing Democrats’ public relations effort.
Fear not, simpletons. This is where Boehner really beguiled Reid and the Democrats. He forced Reid to bring two of four riders – Obamacare and Planned Parenthood – to an actual vote on the Democrat-controlled Senate floor! Besides, Boehner is presciently saving his firepower for the real battle, the debt ceiling fight.
Now let’s travel in a time machine and attempt to ascertain the outcome of the real big fight in the future:
May 10-May 31 2011: The debt ceiling of $14.294 trillion is imminently approaching. The Democrats continue to propagate the fallacious warning of a default on our credit. They turn to the airwaves to accuse Republicans of not only forcing a government shutdown, but a shutdown of our nation. Republicans once again begin by promising robust transformational changes. They propose an awesome Balanced Budget Amendment as a concession for raising the debt limit.
The amendment would force Congress to pass a balanced budget; the President to submit a balanced budget; the capping of spending at 18% of GDP; a 2/3ds supermajority to raise taxes; and a 3/5ths supermajority to raise the debt ceiling.
In addition to the balanced budget demand, Eric Cantor threatens to tie Medicare and Medicaid reform to the debt ceiling deal. As the final hours wind down, Democrats denounce Republicans as attacking every civilian constituency in the country with more ferocity than Al-Qaeda. They assert that hell will freeze over before they agree to any one of those concessions.
As the impasse reaches its breaking point, does anybody really believe that the GOP would commit to any meaningful and transformational vitiation of Democrats’ livelihood, forcing a shutdown? They have already communicated to the Democrats in a very inconspicuous manner that they will never force a shutdown by interjecting policy into a budget impasse.
However, fear not folks, the real real fight is Paul Ryan’s blockbuster FY 2012 budget, which will cut $6.2 trillion, eliminate Obamacare, and totally reform the welfare state. That is where we should expend our political capital.
Once again, let’s jump back into our time machine:
Late September 2011: Let’s assume that Ryan’s budget easily passes the full House over the summer appropriations process with its full glory intact. By late September, the Senate has still not passed a budget. As the final days of FY 2011 tick down, Democrats launch a multi-million dollar ad blitz portraying Republicans as devious killers of women, children, seniors, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed, and the mentally ill. Paul Ryan is denounced as worse than Hitler, or even Bush.
If Republicans failed to go to the mat for defunding Obamacare in April, will they really have the temerity to force a government shutdown on October 1st over Obamacare, along with reform of Medicaid, Medicare, green energy, and hundreds of billions in cuts from Democrat special interest groups?
Okay, okay, I give up. Republicans cannot force transformational change before the 2012 elections. After all, they only control “one half of 1/3rd of government”. We can only chip around the edges for now. But just you wait until 2012 when we win the presidency and the Senate. We will really stick it to them then.
Back in the time machine:
February 2013: Republicans win the White House, and due to the favorable electoral landscape, they win 53-56 seats in the Senate and preserve their House majority. On day one, the House passes repeal of Obamacare lock, stock and barrel; while President Pawlenty/Gingrich/Barbour promises to sign it immediately. Feisty conservative warriors like Mitch McConnell and Lamar Alexander quickly bring the repeal bill to the Senate floor. Then…..an ever truculent group of 41+ Democrat Senators filibuster the bill to the bitter end!
We must realize that whether we ultimately secure 61, 38, or 28 billion in cuts, they are all insignificant and well below the original Republican promise. The real 800 pound gorilla in the deal is Obamacare. The cost of that demon is incalculable and almost infinite.
The bottom line is that we will never control all branches of government enough to repeal Obamacare before it become immutable, if ever. It is highly unlikely that we will win 60 seats in the Senate. Even if we did, there is no guarantee that senators like Brown, Murkowski, Collins, and Snowe will accede to full repeal. They might be able to use budget reconciliation, but Republicans have already declared that they fear political reprisal from any attempt to push policy through budget fights. A Republican president can conceivably halt implementation through an Executive Order. However, by that time, much of its effects would have come to fruition. Will Republicans have more temerity to fight Obamacare at that point?
The longer this monster survives and the longer its perceived front-loaded benefits begin to actualize and create dependency, the harder it will be to repeal. We cannot assume that we will ever have enough votes to repeal it statutorily because you need full control over government to accomplish that. That leaves us with the option of the budget process, which can be used to force the issue as long as we have control of one branch of government.
We have three opportunities to defang Obamacare by forcing a budgetary impasse; the FY 2011 budget, the debt ceiling, and the FY 2012 budget. Boehner has already punted on the first one. More importantly, through the process, he obviated our chances of defunding Obamacare during the next two “really important” battles.
Simply put, there are two incontrovertible realities that were revealed from round one of the war. One, Democrats will never willingly acquiesce to a deal that attenuates their dependency empire in any meaningful way. And second, Republicans will never use the budget process to force those policies if it will cause a government shutdown. This is a lethal combination for any leverage that we might have during the “real” battles in the future.
As time passes, and we continue to consummate every last Democrat entitlement program and special interest market-distorter, is it too unreasonable to ask when the end game is for Obamacare? Or will it become irrevocable like every other entitlement program, thus forcing us to choose from a few mediocre options to reform the program, instead of repealing it?
It is for good reason that Democrat consultants advised their party leaders to commit political suicide in 2010 for the purpose of creating the mother of all entitlements, permanently securing a perennial electoral base. They knew that if they harnessed their opportunity to pass Obamacare, it would never be repealed. Based upon the behavior of some Republicans, I can’t say their premonition was faulty.
House conservatives must demand from leadership, at least privately, an end game to these policy riders, most importantly, Obamacare. If the “real” battle is not waged in the near future, there will be no other chance. There is no time like the present.
Do we really want to place our entire future solely in the hands of Anthony Kennedy?
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