Politics

GOP plays small ball (again)

GOP plays small ball (again)

So House Republicans will vote next week on a bill that would raise the nation’s debt ceiling for three months. The catch? It will feature a provision that would stop all pay for members of Congress if the Senate doesn’t pass a budget. The median wealth for a senator in 2009 was almost $2.38 million, so this isn’t going to be the most effective threat available to snap Harry Reid (worth between $3-$10 million) into action. The chances of the Senate passing it? Zero.

Strategically speaking, this is another attempt to shift the public’s ire from Republicans to Senate Democrats on the ongoing cliff battles. I’m not sure it’s exactly a bad idea, but more than likely it is an ineffective one. The problem with this stuff is that it’s small ball politics. It sounds like a stunt. It is a stunt. (UPDATE: Not to mention, probably unconstitutional.)

In a statement released from Republican retreat in Virginia, Eric Cantor said: “The first step to fixing this problem is to pass a budget that reduces spending. The House has done so, and will again. The Democratic Senate has not passed a budget in almost four years, which is unfair to hardworking taxpayers who expect more from their representatives. That ends this year.”

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The last time the Senate passed a budget was April of 2009. And the habit is probably not going end this year.

While Cantor is right in substance, everyone probably understood one thing about the debt ceiling showdown: Republicans were going to vote to raise  it. All kinds of Republicans have openly said they’d do it. Whether you agree with the tactically or not, to extract concessions from a president who offers so little, you have to be prepared to take the dive. They were not.

Republicans aren’t making compelling big-picture arguments so there’s no way to win the small ones. Even if you believe, like I do, that conservatives are right on these budgetary issues, they’re not very convincing. As Jonah Goldberg recently argued, the GOP’s problems do not stem from “being insufficiently conservative. Its troubles stem from it being insufficiently persuasive, not to its right flank but to the general public.”

Want proof? Most polls – now, and during the debt ceiling showdown in 2011 – show that Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling. As you’ve no doubt heard, this is supposedly the position of the most extremist and radical elements in society. Yet, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey found that 45 percent of those polled say they will blame Republicans if the debt ceiling is not raised and the United States defaults. Only 33 percent would blame Democrats. So there is a disconnect. Yes, biased media is part of the problem, but it’s more than that. And this kind of blame game insider stuff means little to the single guy in Denver or the mom in Miami. Republicans need to give the average, generally disinterested American a compelling reason to side with them.

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