There is word out on the wires indicating that a budget deal of some sort is on the horizon. And talk of “revenue enhancements” and “out-year savings” is percolating to the surface.
This is not the stuff which indicates progress or success to conservatives, who are looking for structural reductions in the size and scope of the federal government in exchange for an extension of the nation’s debt ceiling – ideally, conservatives and an overall majority of Americans would prefer not to lift that ceiling at all.
So business as usual will be seen as wholly insufficient to the public who gave Republicans a House majority last November. House Speaker John Boehner is going to have to show a willingness to fight for the nation’s future rather than a capitulation to the vagaries of the current news cycle.
And with President Barack Obama droning on about corporate jets and the oil and gas people, at least publicly, it would appear that unless the president and his people are laying down a smoke screen in advance of selling out their ideological cohorts there is little reason to think a deal of any quality can be had.
As such, conservatives are terrified of the result of a Boehner-Obama debt ceiling deal. Particularly when one is reportedly to be announced soon.
It’s within that context that Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) appears as a breath of fresh air.
Asked by POLITICO this afternoon whether he’s concerned about the secrecy behind the Speaker’s negotiations with the White House, the freshman Tea Party favorite offered up a Yogi Berra-quality quote…
“Yeah, because If I don’t get exactly what I want, I’m not voting for it, so it doesn’t matter to me,” Landry said Thursday, after Boehner told his conference earlier in the day that he wasn’t going to share many details of the debt ceiling plan while he’s negotiating with the president. “They understand it has to be good, solid, fundamental reform—so it’s either a fish or cut bait issue for me. They’re either going to have in there what I want or I’m not voting for it.”
Landry is one of many House Republicans who like the “Cut, Cap And Balance” concept whereby in order to agree to an increase in the debt ceiling it’s required that Washington make drastic, permanent cuts to spending and then send to the states a balanced budget amendment to force the federal government to adhere to some form of fiscal discipline. That’s a terrific idea, but it may not be practicable within the time frame allowed in the current debate.
So in the meantime Boehner is going to have to show that he’s capable of bringing Obama to heel. Landry isn’t convinced that will happen, and he’s not alone.
In the maelstrom of political posturing circulating the Capitol over the negotiating to raise the debt ceiling, Landry’s comments succinctly display the challenges the speaker faces as he tries to negotiate a compromise that his ideologically entrenched conference can accept. Since they were elected in November, the freshmen have spoken about this vote as though it were the defining moment of their careers. Many of them attacked their Democratic opponents for raising the debt ceiling during the 2010 elections. And while they’ve largely stuck to script—saying that they can’t vote to raise the debt ceiling without serious reforms to government spending, the freshman sound increasingly skeptical as leaders in both parties begin to circle in on a deal.
Eighteen of them signed a pledge saying that they won’t vote for anything less than a deal that makes significant spending cuts, caps future spending at a percentage of the GDP and includes a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution—a bill that, in its current form, has little chance of acquiring the two-thirds majority needed just to pass it out of the House.
Landry’s position on the recent spate of discussion about the federal government’s raising revenues isn’t a unique one – many, if not most, Republicans recognize that the federal government’s budget problems come out of a spending issue; federal revenues have never been within earshot of the amount of expenditures currently flying out of the Treasury.
“This whole notion of looking at revenues scares me a little bit. I don’t at all think that that’s an avenue we need to look down,” says freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) “It’s not going to make a hill of beans in this debt fight.”
Landry says that he wants to believe the revenue debate “has been blown out of proportion,” because Republicans already supported fundamental tax reform that closes loopholes—as long as it also lowers corporate tax rates. But, when asked whether the revenue discussion made him nervous, Landry said, “Oh absolutely. When they say anything it makes me nervous.”
What this means is that a deal which includes “revenue enhancements” is going to be tough to sell to the newcomers in the House like Landry. Whether such a deal – should it include significant spending cuts – will be sellable to Democrats is an even more interesting question.