It’s over…….for now.
The mainstream media (MSM) would have you believe that this was a “bipartisan agreement”. It was…..in the same way that Lee and Grant reached an agreement at the Appomattox Courthouse in 1865. It was a complete surrender on the part of Republicans. All that was “negotiated” were the terms of that surrender.
President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi got what they wanted. They employed an admittedly risky strategy a month ago centered on the basis that they would not negotiate, not compromise and not talk. Taking this position and holding it meant that it was certain the country was going to go close to “the brink” of the debt ceiling. Boehner repeatedly said that “default” was not an option. The Democrat troika never said that. They were willing to risk the future of this nation in pursuit of their socialist dreams. Their strategy left only two possible outcomes: Republican surrender or we find out what happens if a modern government runs out of money. They got the former.
The battle is lost. But, the war is far from over. The nature and timing of future battles were both shaped by the course and outcome of this one. Here is where I see things standing today:
- Government Funding: The next “cliff” comes on January 15, 2014 when the government could potentially shut down again. That date was intentionally chosen because that is when the next round of Sequester cuts, that further reduce government spending, take effect. This round of cuts will disproportionately hit defense spending. Democrats are hoping that they can leverage increased funding for defense for all the IRS, EPA, ObamaCare and welfare spending that they want. I think that effort will fail. The greatest threats to America today are from within, not without. In my opinion, we must preserve the Sequester as the only force we currently have that is limiting the cost and scope of government to some degree. Between now and then, watch the White House spin machine spool up on how “devastating” these cuts are in order to soften the ground for this push. But, if they want to shut the government down again in order to increase spending, let them do it.
- Debt Limit: The new law makes February 7th the date past which the government cannot technically borrow more money. But, Treasury has the ability to reverse all of the “extra-ordinary measures” (which are by now quite ordinary) and use them again starting February 5th. The administration will likely by then also have a new and compliant Federal Reserve Chairman in Janet Yellen. Estimates are that we wouldn’t run out of cash again until sometime between April and May of 2014. But, that date can vary widely depending on a number of factors. Paul Ryan will be trying to get some entitlement reforms attached to the next debt ceiling increase. However, in recent meetings at the White House, the president made it very clear that he would not accept even minor entitlement reforms – reforms that he, himself, has repeatedly proposed – unless they are accompanied by new tax increases. Don’t hold your breath for any deficit reducing agreement here.
- Bipartisanship is Dead: I have always taken great satisfaction in putting together bipartisan agreements. Unfortunately, the atmosphere for such efforts has not been good over the last couple of years. Now, it is much, much worse. The last 4 weeks frayed nerves and hurt relationships. There are feelings of anger and betrayal between Republicans and Democrats. Working together is difficult. However, in my view, this last clash has made it almost impossible for at least a year or perhaps for the rest of Obama’s presidency. He cannot expect to take a no compromise position on the things Republicans want and then expect those same Republicans to “meet him half-way” on the things that he wants. Trust was a casualty of this last battle. This will have major consequences ahead.
- Media and Spin:The performance of the MSM in parroting the White House talking points was especially shameful in this last conflict. According to their reporting, each time the House passed a bill to the Senate, it was “dead on arrival” and there was no reason for the Senate to take it up. But, when the Senate passed their one bill over to the House, the media cried for the House to take it up and made a big show of bewilderedly asking why won’t Boehner bring it up for a vote since it passed the Senate? Can you imagine if we had been the ones to take the position that we won’t compromise or negotiate? I did a number of interviews with the MSM where they tried to get me to say something bad. If I did, they clearly planned on running with it for their story. Since I didn’t, they usually ignored the interview. I also noticed that when I made a particularly good argument, they assiduously avoided using it. We have always known this how it is. But, it is getting worse. There remain little unbiased media, and that pushes both sides apart rather than together.
- “Death of the Republican Party”: This song is being gleefully played by the MSM. Don’t you buy it. There is more unity amongst elected Republicans in Washington than I have seen in some time because of the ability to rally against a common adversary. Every single Republican wants to repeal ObamaCare, reduce the regulatory burden and reform entitlements and the tax code. There is absolutely no disagreement on these issues. At all. None. This narrative is a fiction created by the Obama campaign, supported by the MSM, to try and drive a wedge between Republicans in order to split the party so that Democrats can divide and conquer. They envision a world where the only parties are liberal Democrats, progressive Democrats and Socialists – which are all the same thing, by the way. Don’t fall into this trap. The gap between the most conservative Democrat and the most liberal Republican has never been wider. Every Republican in Congress is much more committed to fighting for the issues most of you care about than any Democrat.
- ObamaCare: ObamaCare was unscathed by the surrender. You may hear that the government is supposed to verify income before giving subsidies now as part of the deal. This is actually already the law. The administration has chosen not to enforce it. Their computer systems are so messed up that they may not be able to enforce it. They gave us something we already had. Not a big win. But, ObamaCare is falling in on itself. That will play out over the next year and the public’s distaste for ObamaCare will grow.
The Democratic spin machine is already spooling up for their next set of messages. They are feeling their oats and they now believe that they can use the next shutdown and debt limit deadlines to push what they want and have always wanted – more spending, higher taxes and more dictates from the federal government. They believe that their big win in this shutdown has put us on defense and that we no longer have any leverage to reduce spending, reduce taxes or take government power away. The MSM will begin pounding the messages that the economy is slow because of the “Republican shutdown” and that government spending needs to be increased to save the economy. They’ll tell you that this is not the time to reduce the deficit, but that, in fact, we should increase it to help create jobs. You’ll also hear that taxes need to go up in the name of fairness and economic growth. They’ll say that we can regain trust from the world community and improve the economy by tackling global warming through increased EPA control over all activities. And, of course, that there are no problems with ObamaCare that can’t be fixed by just requiring that everyone have the same government-provided health care.
Obviously, it’s all complete BS. But, that’s what you are going to hear. We in the House will still try to make progress by doing the opposite of all that. But, if we can’t make progress by weakening the socialist grip, we can certainly stop it from getting any tighter. In my last year in Congress, I may wear out my “no” button.