Congress is on strike. You may not have heard about it, you may not read about it, but for all intents and purposes, Congress has resolved to do nothing until after the 2014 elections. Yes, there have been some noises about immigration reform, but the Senate says the House won’t let them pass anything and the House says the same about the Senate. We all know how the game is played: Nothing will happen.
From a strategic perspective, there is reason for the GOP to sit out any policymaking until after the elections when they will ostensibly have more leverage to exact a better deal from the White House.
This also frees Republicans to continually hammer away at Obamacare. Polls continue to support the idea that this is a winning strategy.
Frankly, the idea of Congress not passing any sort of sweeping legislation for the next nine months is appealing as well. Congress suffers from the disease of do-somethingism in a way few institutions do. Thus, as a conservative, that status quo seems better than the alternative of making deals with a Democrat-controlled Senate and the Obama administration.
However, this can-kicking strategy has also cost Republicans dearly in terms of hard-earned budget cuts. As Matt Purple pointed out:
As paltry as the sequester was, it was still real deficit reduction and a victory for the GOP. But then Republicans passed the Ryan-Murray budget, which nullified the sequester’s deepest and most immediate cuts, in exchange for ending long-term jobless benefits and reforming pensions starting at the end of 2015. Now Republicans are canceling pension reform in exchange for Medicare cuts in the somewhat more distant year of 2024. And with progressives throwing a four-alarm temper tantrum every time someone utters the word “entitlements,” does anybody honestly think that the Medicare cuts won’t get canceled too? Congress has a decade to take another kick at the can.
Some have justified these retreats as the cost of not rocking the boat through the elections. Maybe that will work out, but eight years in Washington has taught me that the future spending cuts, like the ones for which we traded the sequester, inevitably disappear into the ether of D.C. strategy.
So loyal readers, I am conflicted. At the end, all I can really say is this better work come November or else we’ve given up budget cuts and sat on our hands for nothing.