Political Animal


January 23, 2013 5:03 PM The House GOP’s Strange, Hollow “Victory”

By Ed Kilgore

So today the House passed their ultra-gimmicky temporary debt limit bill today that threatened not a global economic collapse but a congressional pay suspension, in the pursuit of a demand not for vast reductions in federal domestic spending but for a Senate budget resolution. Enough Democrats voted for the measure that the defection of 33 Republicans from the hell-no-let’s-blow-up-the-economy faction was acceptable.

But conservatives on the fence also got a concession in the way of a public promise that the House GOP’s own budget resolution would balance the federal budget within ten years without new revenues, which will require levels of cuts that could make the 2011-2012 Ryan Budgets look like something out of the playbook of the early Fabian Society (see Greg Sargent’s analysis with help from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities for illustrations).

The other aspect of the internal GOP maneuver is that now the pressure on the House leadership to make the next confrontation over appropriations (the pending sequesters and a soon-to-expire stopgap funding bill) an apocalyptic exercise with a serious government shutdown—always a national crowd-pleaser since Newt Gingrich tried it out in 1995—is enormous.

Even before then, we’ll have the spectacle of the Senate passing a budget resolution with more revenues as well as spending cuts, which will lead House Republicans to shriek that they meant a real budget, which means one that only includes domestic spending cuts (preferably the entitlement “reforms” Republicans are afraid to propose on their own). So nothing will have really been accomplished, other than the sound and fury necessary to obscure the fact that the would-be debt-limit hostage has escaped Congress, perhaps (one can only hope) for good.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • NCSteve on January 23, 2013 5:09 PM:

    I'm predicting a budget that assumes a huge influx of new revenue created by a sudden increase in the supply of magic confidence pixie dust for job creators.

  • Jim Stuart on January 23, 2013 5:18 PM:

    I posted this same comment on an earlier entry.

    The Martin Wolf FT article you reference, Ed, is important(http://on.ft.com/Wgs1C7). In it, Wolf references a recent CBPP study that shows with another $1.2 Trillion in policy cuts, i.e., the size of the sequester, plus interest savings, will stabilize US Debt at 73% of GDP by the end of the decade (http://bit.ly/RGGJSe). True, after ten years, we must address healthcare costs, but 10 years is an eternity.

    In his press conference last week, Obama mentioned the $4 Trillion 10 year target in deficit reduction as something "almost everyone agrees to." And because of budget caps in the BCA, and the tax increase in ATRA, we are already at about $2.6 Trillion in deficit reduction. We need $1.4 Trillion more, which is $1.2 Trillion in policy cuts, plus interest savings.

    So if the sequester triggers, we're there. If Obama trades chained CPI for $600B new tax reform-derived revenue, along with a now reduced sequester of $600B, we're there. And there is $4 Trillion, and we will be there in one form or another by early March, and at that point Obama will say, "We're done." He will acknowledge the long term problem of healthcare cost increases, but he will say ACA plus further tweaking will take care of this. Has anyone noticed that National Health Expenditures have not budged from 17.9% of GDP for three years in a row(2009-2011), the first time its GDP % growth has flattened for more than one year? Has anyone noticed that Medicare costs have moderated for a fourth year in a row - they rose just 3.2% in 2012? CMMS and CBO say it's the recession. I'm not so sure. This didn't happen in 2001 or in 1991-1992. Something's happening, and Obama will say: "No cuts in Medicare benefits. No restructuring of the program. We WILL get cost growth under control."

    In any case, from Obama's viewpoint, budget discussions are almost done. If he did nothing, and the sequester triggered, CBO will show us at $4 Trillion from revised baseline. Over. Done. Now let's watch healthcare costs flatten due to ACA. Forget it, Republicans. These talks are over.

    It's quite possible the GOP will shut down the government in March. If so, like Gingrich and Co., they will lose. They might even try again in May, when the extended debt ceiling needs to be raised, and Obama refuses to negotiate. If so, they will lose again.

    Why do you think Obama didn't mention the budget in his Inaugural? He doesn't have to. It will soon be over. And the GOP will have lost their leverage to bring the Dems into a real bargaining conversation on entitlements. And at one level, Boehner will be right, but with a twist. The GOP will be in deep disarray, but not because Obama is Darth Vader, but because Republicans consistently underestimated and misinterpreted their opponent. So did many progressives, who became convinced that Obama was a Trojan Horse, who's real goal was to dismantle Medicare and Social Security.

    Talk about a long game, This one was hatched after the 2010 midterms and will be ended by June 2013. Wow. Simply WOW!!!