The Republican leadership is determined to cut spending-in 2017 it seems. Senator Mitch McConnell led several other GOP senators to vote for raising a “clean” debt ceiling today. This comes on top of House Speaker John Boehner joining a very small group of Republicans to tip the balance in his chamber and do the same.
This latter vote in the House was accomplished by a solid Democratic front supplemented by a few members of the GOP leadership and budget chairs. Quelle surprise. So much for the “Boehner Rule.”
Harry Reid describes this as Republicans “regaining their grip on sanity,” which is damning with faint praise.
True, most House and Senate Republicans voted against the debt ceiling, including Paul Ryan, but the leadership, forgive me, totally caved. Moreover, a lot of “nay” votes were cast by members who simply wanted to avoid a vote that could cost them dearly in a primary election. We will see how Mitch McConnell does in his own tough primary battle. One must admit, given his situation, he may have made a tough vote on principle even if one disagrees with it.
So in just a few months, Republicans have suspended the “automatic’ budget sequester cuts, passed the Farm Bill, and now lifted the debt ceiling with nothing to show for it in terms of offsetting budget cuts.
Evidently, the Pachyderms are betting on both winning the Senate, and maybe, the presidency, before they find the spine to cut spending anymore. They wanted to avoid any kind of controversy, much less a shutdown, at all costs. In the process they have effectively pushed any more budget-cutting out to sometime after the presidential election, oh, in 2017. Tell me if I am wrong on this.
There are news reports that a critical mass of Republicans want to reinstate subsidies for flood insurance, roll back restraint on cost-of-living adjustments for military pensions, and, a favorite, restore defense cuts. Given that the Democrats will never allow any reform of out-of-control entitlement spending, budget hawks are left with… zilch, zero, zip.
Don’t get me wrong. I truly hope the Republicans win the Senate and the White House. But these are hardly certainties or birds in the hand. The Republicans have blown Senate races over the last several election cycles, muffing several “sure thing” races in states like Missouri and Colorado. As to the White House, beating Hillary Clinton is not exactly written in the stars. While I am partial to Wisconsin GOP Governor Walker, it is clear that he, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, or Mike Huckabee, to name a few potential presidential nominees, are all facing a daunting electoral map in which any Democratic candidate starts with a big pile of electoral votes in New York, California, Illinois, etc., etc. The margin for Republican error in a presidential race is exceedingly narrow. You really have to win Ohio and Florida and a few others. Otherwise, it is game, set, match to the Democrats.
Again, this is not to say that Mrs. Clinton is unbeatable, or that we shouldn’t go all out for the Senate. But we should not go limp on fiscal and budget reform while we wait for a perfect configuration of the planets or the proper arrangement of pigeon entrails to tell us when it is time to fight for fiscal and budgetary reform. The time to act is now, not in 2017, or whenever a risk-averse GOP leadership decides to act.
What we may be seeing is the right-wing version of political careerism at work. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are lifers, honorable ones, for the most part. Boehner always resisted earmarks and has been a staunch defender of the unborn. McConnell is a master tactician and, no doubt, desires another opportunity to lead a majority in the Senate. It is only human that men, or women, who have labored so long to achieve the pinnacle of political success, might shy away from confrontation, just when it is most necessary.
Fast forward to November 2016, and ask yourself, what if we do not get majority control of the Senate or capture the White House? In that case the GOP will regret very much not seizing their opportunities for saving the nation when it had the chance. One can only offer the lamentation, “O tempora, o mores!”