House Speaker John Boehner is a Republican who clearly wishes conservatives would turn up on Election Day, vote for GOP candidates, and then quietly go away. The words “conservative” and “Republican” are often used together, but the reality is a large number of Republicans are not conservative, although they pretend they are during each election cycle. That’s one of the GOP’s main problems: Fakecons — fake conservatives.
Disparaging the right, Boehner recently said, “When you criticize something and you have no idea what you’re criticizing, it undermines your credibility.”
Boehner should encourage the ideologically malleable components of his party (including himself) to undergo serious self-scrutiny before lecturing conservatives about having their credibility undermined. When Republicans abandon their stated goals (such as advancing a less burdensome and less expensive government), it is their credibility that is undermined. The recent Paul Ryan-Patty Murray budget deal illustrates the dilemma. This is not a fiscal response to America’s economic needs; it’s a political invention embraced by panicky Republicans.
Republicans remember the hit they took during the government shutdown and are determined not to go there again. Fine. But the spending increases in Ryan-Murray were not necessary to avoid another body blow. Prior to the shutdown Republicans tried — repeatedly — to defund the Affordable Care Act. It was a losing strategy because, first, they were attempting to starve an existing law and, second, the Democrats were never going to dismantle their major accomplishment. This time, Republicans would have been advocating for an existing law that had bipartisan support: the Budget Control Act of 2011. By doing nothing, spending cuts that both sides had agreed to would have been implemented. If Democrats objected, it would have been the GOP’s turn to accuse them of wanting to change policy in midstream.
If Congress had adhered to the Budget Control Act, discretionary spending would be held to $967 billion. Thanks to Ryan-Murray, the ceiling rises to $1.012 trillion. That’s lower than 2012, when that figure was $1.28 trillion, but one would think Congress could live with the $967 billion amount and make intelligent judgments about America’s spending priorities. Yes, setting priorities is hard work, but members of Congress are not paid $174,000 a year ($223,500 if you’re speaker of the house; $193,400 if you’re the Senate majority leader) to have an easy time. When will they begin earning their pay?
Status quo disciples assure that things will turn out fine because after spending increases in 2014 and 2015, the budget caps return in 2016. Does anyone believe the 2016 Congress will abide by a deal made in 2013? After all, the Congress of 2013 hasn’t stood by the 2011 deal.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 raised the debt limit, but those who supported the plan said the spending increases would be offset with spending reductions in future years, and those reductions would be enforced with spending caps. Those are the same caps that are being busted right now, and these are the years in which the “future cuts” from the 2011 deal were supposed to have been made. This is an insane situation: Those who are pledging to uphold new spending caps years from now are the same folks who are breaking the caps they supported years ago.
During the budget battle of 2011, Republicans were warned not to allow conservatives to force them to demand unachievable spending reductions. Instead, they were urged to yield on the debt ceiling and confront spending sometime in the future. They did. It’s always the same story: Capitulate to the Democrats — spend now, cut later.
Those who urge patience say fiscal issues will eventually be addressed when Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress. That’s a phony argument.
Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution, says: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.”
That means only the House can create a new tax and that it’s the chamber that controls the federal checkbook. Besides, the GOP has held the House for the majority of the past two decades and government has continued to grow. During the administration of President George W. Bush, Republicans controlled all three branches of government for a period of time, and government still grew larger and costlier. Republican leaders may give assurances that things will change once/if they become Washington’s dominate party, but history and current events tell a different tale.
Ryan-Murray is an unnecessary and unwise GOP retreat.
Joseph Bell was communications director for former Congressman Rob Simmons, Conn.-2nd District.