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This week the House and Senate will focus on spending measures for two different years, but they are both intertwined. The Senate will vote on the House-passed CR to fund the government for the rest of the current fiscal year, while the House will introduce the “Ryan” budget resolution for FY 2014.
With much anticipation and gusto, Paul Ryan will release his budget this week – one that is expected to balance in 10 years. In order to do so, it will presumably zero out funding for Obamacare. Conservatives on an off the hill will offer profuse accolades for Ryan and his budget. And rightfully so. This budget, while imperfect (it uses Obama’s tax hikes to balance), will represent a paradigm shift from the current fiscal trajectory into Greece on steroids. Conservatives will pour over the budget and express glee over each item as if it were some Christmas wish list.
Unfortunately, there is one disturbing point that will be overlooked through the hullabaloo over the budget resolution – we’ve been here before. And if the past is a good indication of the future, conservatives will be disappointed.
In 2011, Paul Ryan introduced a pretty good budget for FY 2012. We were told at the time to hold back on the FY 2011 CR because “wait until the Ryan budget, and we’ll defund Obamacare and cut trillions.” Well, we waited for the Ryan budget, and Republicans never had any intention of standing behind it. They eventually passed Harry Reid’s omnibus bill, which increased spending and obviously left Obamacare intact.
It’s really very simple, folks. You can unilaterally craft a budget that balances in 10 years, 5 years, or one year. It is irrelevant unless you plan to use the debt ceiling or budget deadline as leverage to force through a major element of that budget.
Oh, but we can’t “govern” from the House, can we? Tell that to the Gingrich-era House, which fought a moderate Senate and a Democrat president to enact welfare reform and spending cuts. Clinton knew that Republicans meant business and were willing to engage in brinkmanship. And no, Republicans did not lose the ’96 elections because of the government shutdown. I think a man named Bob Dole had something to do with that (they also picked up two seats in the Senate).
Back in 1995, we only had $4.5 trillion in debt, the dependency state was a fraction of its current size, and Obamacare did not exist. Anyone who is serious about saving this country must be willing to fight at least as hard as the Republicans did in the ‘90s. Perforce, if Republicans continue to telegraph the message to Democrats that they are terrified of engaging in brinkmanship, the Ryan budget is not worth the paper it is printed on.
Which brings us back to the CR for the current year pending before the Senate this week. If Republicans in the Senate refuse to filibuster the CR in order to fight Obamacare once and for all, what is the point of passing a budget for the new year? Give me one good reason why they will suddenly find their moxie during the September CR? And don’t even start talking about the debt ceiling, when Republicans will run for the hills in order to avoid the contrived threat of default.
Ted Cruz has introduced an amendment to defund Obamacare. Many Senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have expressed their support for the defund effort. However, there is a big difference between supporting an amendment and committing to filibuster the CR if it fails to contain that amendment. It’s time Republicans engage in a fight over Obamacare – an entitlement program that is actually unpopular with the voters.
They should object to any unanimous consent agreement to proceed with debate on the CR until there is a vote on Obamacare. There are a number of red state Democrats in cycle who need to stand before their constituents and directly affirm their support for this malevolent beast of a program. They should lead filibusters into the night attacking every aspect of the program, much like Rand Paul did with domestic drone use last week.
If Republicans ultimately allow this CR to pass without defunding Obamacare, all the hype over the Ryan budget this week will be irrelevant. There will be no balanced budgets without first derailing implementation of the biggest budget-buster in American history.