For the next few days, you Republicans in the Senate will have the unique opportunity to force Harry Reid to accept significant changes to the amounts and manner in which the Federal government spends money and funds programs.
And while there's every reason to think you're going to screw it up, let's just say that hope springs eternal.
With that in mind, a few serious suggestions:
- First and foremost, don't forget how much leverage you have by sticking together as a group. Even the MSM can no longer pretend that Reid isn't in the hot seat, since it's the Senate that has not yet pased any raising of the debt ceiling. And because of the unique delaying tactics available to the minority party in the Senate, time is not on his side. HE NEEDS YOU...AND DON'T FORGET IT.
- Second, and almost just as important, don't forget that 1 of the 2 critical things Obama wants out of this whole thing is not aligned with Harry Reid's political interest. Obama does not want to have to fight a debt debate again before the election (just look at the carnage this one is doing to his poll numbers), and his fellow Dems will no doubt agree with him on that one. But the other critical thing for Obama in this debate is that he avoid accepting something that encourages a primary challenge. However, the Dem Senators running for re-election in red states in 2012 would love to be seen "standing up to Obama" and "acting independently" because it would help them politically, and hence are probably very open to passing the type cuts and changes that would in fact make a primary challenge more probable. You can even offer them a high-profile press conference with the Republican(s) of their choice if it will help seal the deal (conservatives, moderates...whatever they want).
- Which ties in nicely to the next thing to remember: anything that helps those Dems politically increases the (albeit slim) chance that Harry Reid can return as Majority Leader in 2013. Hence, if going "behind enemy lines" and trying to isolate Reid turns out to be a non-starter (because those Dems don't want to go behind his back), then appeal to Reid directly. Don't forget: Reid knows that Obama has screwed him left and right in ths debate, and won't hesitate to do so again even if it means screwing the Dem's that Reid needs to stay Majority Leader in 2013. Harry Reid is a political animal, so appeal to his own political interest.
- Short of actually getting daylight between the Senate and the White House (which we know exists, even though Reid has so far been successful in keeping it from pouring out for all to see), then use your incredible leverage right now (go back to point #1 above if you've already forgotten how much leverage you have) in order to exact somthing tangible and real that will actually make a difference for the country, and that our patriots in the House can pass (even while pinching their nose). Obviously this will mean no tax increases, but also it could (and should) mean one or two really big things. One example would be, for instance, ending the Medicaid entitlement and block granting it. Another would be a meaningful, immediate reduction in the number of Federal programs and workforce. In other words, get at least a couple of individual items that will actually matter, and make sure at least one of them is an entitlement.
- Be wary, be very wary, or which trigger(s) you choose. This is critical: don't forget that Obamacare may get struck down by the Supreme Court, so any trigger based on that (or a portion of it) may not matter to Dems in a year (or 2, or 4). And if there ever is a time where it won't matter to them, then they'll have incentives to intentionally bust the caps, so as to automatically trigger something you vehemently oppose (e.g. tax increases) that you may well be powerless to stop. For this reason (and others) I personally hate the idea of the triggers, but at least be extremely careful in which ones you choose. Far better to make as a trigger Paul Ryan's Medicare reforms becoming the law of the land. That will always be anathema to Dems.
- Don't be afraid to message the "cuts" in terms of "Waste, Fraud, and Abuse". Coburn's already identified trillions in Waste, Fraud, and Abuse. The question ought to be asked: why does the President need tax increases before going after Waste, Fraud, and Abuse. Why are we even debating this right now? I mean, good heavens.
- Don't be afraid to message the "cuts" in terms of the Baseline. As has been well-documented elsewhere of late, what we're really talking about here are decreases in the growth of spending....not actual decreases.
- Don't be afraid to message your so-called intransigent demands as both very balanced and more than fair. Your "cuts only" approach is a balanced one when viewed within the context of the enormous increases in Federal spending under Obama, including a whole new entitlement when the existing entitlements are already growing broke. Clearly, any approach to solving the deficit ought to start with spending first. Further, your "cuts" represent well less than 50% of those that were passed in the GOP House Budget for Fiscal 2012, which is hardly an intransigent position to take. And last but not least, you should note to members of the media that many in your caucus wanted to tie the full repeal of Obamacare to any raise in the debt ceiling. This is the perfect line to deliver to show just how accomodating you've been during this whole negotiation, e.g. "We know how critical it is to raise the debt ceiling, which is why we didn't want to make it politically impossible for the President to sign it by including a full repeal of Obamacare in any debt-raise legislation, despite the fact that many of our members wanted to do so."
We know you won't get everything needed to actually save the country. But if you fail to get something substantiative here that actually begins the process of reversing the Federal Leviathan, that actually takes at least one entitlement and puts it on the path to sustainability, then you will have truly screwed over not only the people who put you in power (namely, us), but the generations of Americans past and present who have sacrificed so much for our land, not to mention those yet unborn who are drowning in debt already.
Which only leaves one last final suggestion: grow a pair, and go get 'em.