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So … where is this whole budget process headed?
Let’s review the bidding:
Instead, says the Republican leadership, this is only the first of a series of battles.
First, there will be the debt limit.
And why will Republicans be stronger in the battle over the debt limit than they were in the battle over the continuing resolution?
I can assure them that there will be no fewer liberal economists-for-hire crawling out of the woodwork to predict economic apocalypse if the debt limit is not raised.
So what will Republicans seek in exchange for the debt limit?
Do I realize that, in order to begin to balance the budget, you’re going to have to get beyond the tiny sliver consisting of domestic discretionary spending? Of course I do.
But Paul Ryan’s budget -– which he is being lured to propagate by the mainstream media -– is not going to be worth the paper it’s printed on -– particularly with a crop of Republicans who do not have enough courage to threaten to shut down the government to defund ObamaCare.
Obama -– who is currently threatened with the loss of Florida and his presidency by his own Medicare cuts -– will blast the GOP for its meaningless “senior cut” proposals. And, at that point, feckless Republicans will believe that the only political way out is to actually consummate the “grand bargain” -– which will happen only with massive tax increases which dwarf tiny entitlement cuts.
But what about the fiscal year 2012 budget? With the exception of the D.C., Legislative Branch, and Military Construction appropriations, any bill that involves any controversy will stall in the Senate. On September 30, we will be in the same position we are now -– with the entire government (or most of it) subject to a “continuing resolution.”
And, if McConnell and Boehner are not willing to risk shutting down the government now, why would they be more inclined to do so in September -– almost a year away from the elections which swept the GOP into power?
Finally, there is the Krautheimer scenario. Everything will be played out in the 2012 elections.
Let’s hope not.
If Barack Obama walks away from the budget and debt limit fights as the great bipartisan messiah who cut taxes AND slashed $30 billion from the budget, why would swing voters vote for the feckless Republicans who allowed him to get away with that?
by Michael E. Hammond, former General Counsel Senate Steering Committee 1978-89.