James Madison was very adamant that the power of the purse be preserved in the body of government that is closest to the people – the House of Representatives – as a way to redress all grievances against harmful government interventions. We have a law that is woefully unpopular and universally regarded as unworkable, yet Republicans have made it abundantly clear to the Democrats that Obamacare will never be part of the budget negotiations ever again. We have a president who is illegally usurping the power of Congress on an array of issues, yet Republicans have preemptively abdicated their authority to reassert their power through the budget process.
Consequently, Democrats are on the cusp of getting everything they want in the upcoming budget bill. When Democrats are fully committed to growing government and Republicans are publicly committed to surrendering their leverage on budget bills, we are left with a one-sided deal. It's that simple.
After taking Obamacare off the table, despite the fact that it is demonstrably more of a political liability for Democrats than it was in October, Democrats moved in for the kill on the sequester. They figured that Republicans were so scared of a budget showdown, they’d give them anything they desire. Evidently, that even included items that Republicans already have in the big, such as the sequester. The sequester is already the law of the land, yet Paul Ryan has agreed to abolish the sequester for 2014 and 2015.
At issue is the scheduled sequester cuts for 2014 that will trim back discretionary budget authority from $1.027 trillion to $967 billion. The emerging deal will likely reinstate most of that spending for the next two years. Ryan and Murray plan to offset the spending with tax increases on airline tickets. Air travel is already very expensive because of the cost of fuel (thanks to our anti-energy policies).
In addition to the expensive cost of air travel, passengers are already hit with taxes and fees that jack up the cost of air travel by 30% of the base cost. Do we really need more airfare taxes in order to fund Obamacare and undo the only spending cuts we’ve ever secured?
The undercurrent of this agreement is the emergence of a dynamic that Republicans want to end all of the budget battles once and for all. That would explain their eagerness for a two-year repeal of the sequester. It also coincides with their decision to push off the debt ceiling indefinitely. Even though the debt ceiling law will be reinstated in February, the Treasury will be able to use “extraordinary measures” to delay the deadline until the summer.
So why is there such a rush to eliminate all of our points of leverage?
Who know? But The Hill has already posited that the end of budget fights will be used to pave the road for an amnesty bill next year. This theory is even more plausible given that Paul Ryan is the lead negotiator on the budget, and in light of recent reports that Boehner will push amnesty (thanks to his new staffer) after the filing deadline for primaries passes.
Even if conservatives don’t have the stomach for a full defund fight, the worst thing they can do is enable leadership to permanently obviate their future leverage. Rather than passing a permanent new appropriations bill for the rest of the year, conservatives should demand another clean short-term CR with one condition attached. They should write instructions forcing both houses of Congress to pass each of the 12 appropriations bills separately for the next fiscal year (FY 2015). As we’ve noted before, this will allow us to isolate funding for Obamacare in one or two bills without the rest of government funding getting encumbered in the imbroglio. At least we will have the opportunity to fight Obamacare next September without the specter of a full government shutdown.
Ultimately, the future of the Republican Party will boil down to the following question: Is their desire to pass amnesty stronger than their will to fight Obamacare?