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Paul Ryan opened his budget talk at AEI today by making three points. Congress has a legal obligation to pass a federal budget. Legislators have a moral obligation to address a predictable debt crisis, and since Republicans disapprove of the country’s current fiscal path they have a specific obligation to propose an alternative. Finally, Republicans should seek an “affirming election” that validates their positive agenda rather than simply running against Barack Obama.
Judging from some quotes appearing in the media, some Republicans disagree with those points. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza is out with a story headlined, “Paul Ryan’s budget is bad politics. Just ask Republicans.” After one quote from a Republican consultant on the record about how it is easier for Democrats to “spook seniors” than for the GOP to propose “responsible solutions,” an anonymous Republican source is exasperated.
Another senior GOP strategist was far more blunt. “Didn’t they learn their lesson?” the source asked. “House Republicans are still under the mistaken impression they have to lead. It’s a presidential election year; they’re along for the ride.”
The Atlantic’s Molly Ball tweeted an email reaction from an unnamed Republican staffer: “The GOP budget is a great tool to further divide our caucus & provide fodder for Dem attack ads. Thank you Paul Ryan.” Not every Republican, even anonymous ones, feels this way. Chris Stirewalt quotes one as saying, “What would it say about us if we didn’t even try to govern?” But even Stirewalt concludes, “Ryan won’t win many friends in his own caucus with his plan and his PR push this week.”
Among Republicans who look no further than the next election, the “right-wing social engineering” impulse remains alive and well.