I’ll be honest – I haven’t paid all that much attention to this current budget thing, and I’ll probably have something more intelligent to say about it tomorrow or Friday.
All I really know about it is it’s essentially a strategic retreat, or if you prefer it’s an acknowledgement that Harry Reid is still running the Senate and so long as he does you can’t really lay the wood to any of the Obama administration’s worst activities. You can’t pass anything that defunds executive amnesty or Obamacare; the stuff that has been showing up in the news cycle is stuff Obama will gladly have Reid kill in the Senate so as to create a government shutdown over the holidays he can blame on the Republicans in the House.
That’s reality. The question is whether a shutdown is anything to be afraid of. The narrative that the 2013 shutdown “engineered” by Ted Cruz – as though no Republicans in the House or Senate actually agreed with Cruz’ position that a dramatic fight over Obamacare just as the public was beginning to understand what a disaster it is was a good idea regardless of how the fight turned out – is a lie. That was proven last month, when the voters beat the hell out of the Democrats who passed Obamacare in the first place rather than the Republicans who “shut down the government” over the law.
So nobody – nobody – ought to be worried about the political price of a government shutdown. In fact, the Republicans ought to have the idea in mind that if Obama is so insistent on governing as a wannabe dictator and leftist ideologue, when he’s lost public opinion and he’s deep underwater on both Obamacare and executive amnesty, a shutdown fight ought to be inevitable and let’s just get it over with.
That said, if you’re going to have a shutdown fight you might as well win it. And to win it, the smart call is to (1) make lots of noises about how you’re not interested in a shutdown and you can’t imagine any circumstances where there will be one, and (2) put yourself in position that when the shutdown fight comes, you’re in control of both the House and Senate and that if you’re able to isolate the fight to a small number of appropriations bills rather than one bill for the whole budget.
What that suggests is something like this “Cromnibus” bill currently being proposed, which kicks the can down the road a little ways and buys time for the big fight.
But it doesn’t really suggest the actual Cromnibus. There are lots of things in the bill which aren’t great, and some which aren’t bad – we’ll show you House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s sales pitch in just a second focusing on those. Fundamentally, though, Cromnibus funds the federal government, including Obamacare, through September – except for the Department of Homeland Security, which it only funds through spring. And that means if there’s a shutdown fight over executive amnesty it will happen in the spring without things other than DHS being on the table.
Frankly, I’d rather do a Cromnibus that funds the federal government until, say, March. And I’d have the House in the next Congress start rolling appropriations bills out of committee in late January, and having them move through Mitch McConnell’s Senate in late February. I would have 14 appropriations bills moving toward Obama’s desk with 10-15 days to go until a shutdown, and I’d have the message machine cranking out the story that the Republicans have funded the government, and it’s up to the president to do his job and sign the bills.
And yes, I would defund Obamacare and executive amnesty. But not in one big budget bill; I’d defund them in one or two appropriations bills. If Obama wants a shutdown fight, he can have one, but he’s not going to be able to have the entire government on ice over a dispute about one or two appropriations bills out of 14.
That’s the smart way to go about this. It’s also what’s known as “regular order,” or put another way it’s the way the budget process is supposed to work and used to work before the dysfunctional idiots took over on Capitol Hill a few years ago.
The long and short of this is that Cromnibus isn’t incompatible with regular order, and it is driven by some of the same thinking you’re reading here. It isn’t quite as aggressive as I’d like to see, but if Cromnibus gets you a shutdown fight over executive amnesty in the spring and a return to the regular-order appropriations process in the summer, it’s supportable.
And, of course, most of the Tea Party folks and the hard-core conservative pundits out there are raking Cromnibus over the coals as a sellout by John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. Which has less to do with whether you can get a strategic win out of Cromnibus and far more to do with the fact that nobody really trusts Boehner and McConnell to win a strategic, high-stakes fight with Obama over Obamacare and executive amnesty – or worse, even whether they’re willing to actually engage in that fight rather than just make a demonstration of resolve before tucking tail and running.
Scalise is supposed to be the conservative with backbone who’s on the leadership team and the guy who’s actually a warmonger among the GOP muckety-mucks. Of course, there are those who will tell you he’s no better than Boehner and when he extols the virtue of Cromnibus he’s just putting lipstick on a pig. There is even a potential Rob Maness problem looming for Scalise as a result of this fight.
But you can decide for yourself what to believe there; here’s Scalise’s argument in favor of the bill.