Rumor has it, and I know it will come as quite a shock, that the Republicans are getting ready to cave on the budget.
The story is out tonight (Caveat emptor: It comes from Dems) that Democrats and Republicans have generally agreed on figure for the budget cuts in the vicinity of $30bn and that all that remains up in the air is the policy riders, one policy rider in particular.
Let’s talk about the number first and then we will get to the policy riders.
In my lifetime, I have never seen a movement like the tea party. They are a completely grassroots organization that sprung up virtually overnight and immediately began impacting elections. They primaried so-called moderates and helped to deliver one of the most sweeping electoral victories in this nation’s history. And here is the kicker; they are almost a one issue group. Sure, they are about personal freedom in a general way, but there is one issue with which the tea party is primarily identified, cutting spending. And truth be told, for every affiliated member of the tea party, there are a dozen unaffiliated that feel the same way.
As far as electoral messages go, they simply do not get any clearer. Cut spending. Or else.
So now let’s talk about the last 2 1/2 months. It is hard to believe that it has only been ten weeks or so since this congress was sworn in. It took less time than that for Republicans to forget or dismiss every lesson they swore to high heaven that they had learned before the election.
At first they promised $100bn which, let’s face it, is a pimple on an elephants butt compared to this year’s deficit of $1.6 trillion. But before the ink was even dry on that weak pledge, they lowered it to $60bn. Now it looks like they will come in around $30bn. My reaction? Of course. By voting for each short term continuing resolution the Republicans have weakened their bargaining position every day because the Dems know they are scared.
So all they have left to ‘negotiate’ on is the policy riders. And the big kahuna of policy riders is the de-funding of Planned Parenthood. As I said, $100bn, $60bn, or even $30bn in fact makes no real difference in the deficit. They are rounding errors. The Republicans are not really serious about cutting spending. No great shock there.
But they better be serious about the de-funding of Planned Parenthood because it is the only thing that really matters. I don’t mean that in the moral sense, although that is undoubtedly true. I mean it in the political sense. This is the only thing they can actually achieve that will help them politically.
Tea partiers and the like will be rightly be disgusted with anything less than the $60bn mark, and I think it is a foregone conclusion that it will be less than that. So there is one thing and one thing only that Republicans can walk away from this battle with their heads held high, go back to their constituents and say “See? We did it.” And that is de-funding Planned Parenthood.
If they come back with $30bn and a defunded Planned Parenthood, they win. The can promise to go back for more cuts, but they have the political victory. If they come back with $30bn and PP funding still in place, their political goose is cooked.
It is a strange twist that while Republicans have disappointed in the protection of life time and time again, defending life is the only thing that can save them now. This should be obvious. But that is what scares me.
Almost all that has happened over the last 10 weeks that has brought us to this point should have been obvious, but they screwed themselves anyway. The tea-party and other Americans sent an unambiguous message to them just months ago, but they screwed it up. And now they have a chance to pull victory from the jaws of defeat by de-funding PP. It should be obvious. But so much should have been obvious.
And what should also be obvious is that in order to win this victory, the government (at least parts of it) will have to be shut down. You have to make the President shut it down over this, as he has promised to do. Hang that promise around his neck. Make him regret it. Stand strong on this one issue and you can still win.
This is it GOP. This is your last chance. Don’t screw it up.