…here’s what I’ve come up with as unsolicited advice to Boehner, McConnell and the rest of the GOP leadership on the Hill.
Go back to the Ryan budget and find all the cuts he proposed to non-defense discretionary spending. What number that comes to – be it $200 billion, $300 billion or what – put it in a bill, marry it dollar-for-dollar with a debt limit increase and get it on the floor.
Let’s say it’s $250 billion in cuts and so it’d be a $250 billion debt limit increase. That would be worth maybe a couple of months of time. So it’s a short-term plan.
There are lots of House Republicans who won’t want to vote for the debt limit increase under any circumstances. Find a way to get enough of them to swallow it and then pass it. But pass it with 220 votes or so. No more than that. Make a big show of how hard it was to find enough votes to pass this, and as soon as you get to 220 votes, cut everybody else loose and tell them to go on TV saying how terrible the bill is and how disgusted they are with Washington.
And then have Boehner give a press conference after the vote at which he says “this is the best we can do in the House at this time. The President is going to have to come to us with specifics before I can get anything else done.”
And then drop that flaming bag of dog poop on Harry Reid’s front porch. Make him deal with it. And warn him that this is the only bill he’ll get out of the House before Aug. 2, so if he doesn’t want a default he’d better make sure it passes.
Meantime, let’s get somebody like Karl Rove with his American Crossroads outfit and/or whatever other organizations can contribute and let’s go buy millions of dollars’ worth on TV ads in places like Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Missouri – namely, swing states Obama won in 2008 but probably or at least maybe won’t win next year – outlining that the government brings in $200 billion a month in revenue and it costs $49 billion for Social Security and Medicare, $29 billion to pay the troops and vets, and $20 billion for debt service, so in the event the two sides can’t agree on a deal before Aug. 2 WHAT IS OBAMA GOING TO SPEND THAT MONEY ON IF IT’S NOT FOR THE OLD FOLKS OR THE TROOPS?
Hammer that out for two solid weeks, have every Republican on the Hill – even the Ron Pauls and Michele Bachmanns who don’t vote in favor of your debt-limit increase bill – speak with the same voice in that the House has done all it can do until the Senate and the President carry the ball past the sticks and if they don’t they’re going to have to answer for why, plus it’s Obama’s responsibility to minimize the effect of missing that deadline for the old folks and the troops.
I’ve seen the polls which say the Republicans will take a bigger hit on this issue than Obama will. Frankly I think those polls are crap, because while Obama will be running against somebody other than John Boehner or Mitch McConnell, individual Republican congressmen and senators and challengers are going to be running against people like Claire McCaskill and Alan Grayson.
That said, the concept behind McConnell’s convoluted Rube Goldberg contraption is a sound one – namely, the flaming bag of dog poop needs to be on Reid or Obama’s doorstep, and it needs to be Reid or Obama stuck with the job of stomping it out. After all, Reid and Obama are the remaining members of the Democrat triumvirate who ran up $5 trillion in debt over the last couple of years; they’re the reason we’re where we are regardless of the poor fiscal performance of Obama’s predecessor (and by the way, before Nancy Pelosi took over as the Speaker the levels of spending we thought were outrageous would be regarded as bare-bones by current standards). It is entirely proper and reasonable for Republicans to insure that this problem is primarily Obama’s and Reid’s to solve.
McConnell’s plan is unworkable because it allows for the possibility for Obama to get a debt limit increase without spending cuts. But if you clean up that problem, it’s not a terrible plan despite what some commentators have done to it. Obama should have to revisit the budget and the debt several times between now and Election Day; bad or nonexistent budgets and spiraling debts are the original sins of his presidency and the idea that he should be given the opportunity to escape the issue with a deal on his own terms is completely laughable. And McConnell’s premise that any real progress on budgets and debts is impossible without getting Obama out of the White House is spot on; he deserves credit for saying so regardless of whether his fail-safe scheme has merit.
I just think there’s a better way to dump this thing on Obama than a convoluted series of debt limit opportunities like McConnell has put forth. Obama says he’ll veto a short term debt limit increase? Fine. Here’s one – prove it. And once he’s swallowed one short-term increase, feed him another one. And another one. With no structure, no plan, no grand design. Here are the things we think ought to be cut; if you agree, then sign off on them and we’ll give you a corresponding debt limit increase. If not, then send us a bill with your own cuts and maybe we’ll be able to pass it. Or maybe we won’t, and then we’re back to you having to decide which bills get paid and which don’t until the next time we can agree.
All the while, House Republicans need to be making the case for the fact that THEY’VE ALREADY DONE THE WORK HERE. Ryan’s budget passed the House. It didn’t pass in the Senate, but that doesn’t mean the House goes back to the drawing board; it means the Senate has to come up with an answer. Since they haven’t done their jobs, the House isn’t responsible for this situation.
Part of the problem is that the American people don’t seem to know that the budget process is held up in the Senate right now. The American people aren’t aware, it doesn’t appear, that Ryan’s budget passed and as such the House has done its job. That’s a perception problem which needs fixing.
Maybe Boehner could pass a debt ceiling increase commensurate with the projected deficit in the Ryan budget, under the theory that the House passed a budget which had a deficit and clearly, then, the House must pass legislation enabling the financing of that deficit. But that increase would have to be contingent on the Senate passing the Ryan budget or something which had the same basic result, and Obama signing it. Boehner could perhaps put a bill on the floor with that debt ceiling increase on such a contingency.
But of course, the Ryan budget’s deficit is less than the one projected for next year. And that means without adhering to his bottom line, the Democrats would not be able to get a debt limit increase Obama wants; namely, an increase that carries him past the 2012 elections.
That’s why Obama said he’s not interested in a short term fix and that it’s time to “eat our peas” and so forth. He’s not being statesmanlike; he’s trying to get the budget issue off the table so he doesn’t have to deal with it as he runs for re-election. It’s a completely cynical and selfish play on his part, and it’s also completely unrealistic for him to think he can escape this issue even though he’s managed to skate lots of times in the past.
There’s no reason why the GOP should let him skate. One way or another, the debt limit has to be dumped in his lap and he needs to be forced to swallow spending cuts or answer to the American people for a default.