A sense of relief washed over Washington Tuesday after the bipartisan Gang of Six — a group that includes Saxby Chambliss of Georgia — announced it had come to agreement on a major deficit-reduction package.
Their announcement was greeted by many as if a path out of the wilderness had been found. President Obama spoke favorably of the plan, calling it “broadly consistent with what we’ve been working on here in the White House.” Senators of both parties expressed support for the plan, at least in broad terms.
“One of the 25 Republicans who heard the Gang of Six’s proposal for a grand bargain on debt reduction was Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who ranks third in the GOP leadership. He said he was impressed both with the plan and with the three Republican gang members who helped draft it.
“Senators [Mike] Crapo, [Tom] Coburn and Chambliss are three of the most conservative members of the Republican caucus, and if they study something for six months, tell me it’s good for the country, that means a lot to me.”
Many other conservative Republicans senators showered similar praise on the Gang of Six proposal. They did so despite the fact that most Republicans for months have opposed using any increased tax revenues to bring down deficits.
Coburn said this plan puts tax revenues back on the table.
“There’s no question, revenues — enhanced revenues — are part of this plan, and we think it’ll be about $1 trillion,” he said.”
But that’s the problem, isn’t it. Sensible, responsible people understand that the deficit has to be addressed by a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases. Politically, that’s how a deal can be cut. And mathematically, it simply isn’t possible to achieve deficit cuts of the size required without approaching the problem from both ends, by raising revenue and cutting spending.
However, sensible, responsible people are not running the show in the U.S. House of Representatives. While Crapo, Coburn and Chambliss may be three of the more conservative Republicans in the Senate, in the eyes of their colleagues in the House they are mere RINOs.
As a sign of their continued fidelity to foolishness, House Republicans spent yesterday passing their extreme “Cut, Cap and Balance Plan.” The good news is that nine GOP congressmen voted against the bill. The bad news is that most if not all of those nine — including GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and Georgia’s Paul Broun — voted against it because in the end, it would raise the debt ceiling. In other words, it wasn’t extreme enough.
“The president has said now for once he wants a balanced approach,” Speaker John Boehner said after the vote. “Well, guess what. In ‘Cut, Cap and Balance’ he does get a balanced approach. He gets his increase in the debt limit of $2.4 trillion. What we get are real cuts in spending and real reforms in place that’ll make sure that this problem never, ever happens again.”
Note that Boehner continues to frame the debt limit increase as a goal that Obama wants and that Boehner is willing to grant him under the right conditions, rather than an absolute necessity for the country as a whole. It’s crazy talk.
Meanwhile, out there in BaseLand, the drumbeat for Armageddon grows louder.
For example, at redstate.com, the Gang of Six plan is derided as “the Gangrene Plan” because “it will slowly, but surely, rot away the nation.”
“What’s going to happen now is the Senate will tell the House that its plan cannot pass. House Republicans must now continue to hold the freaking line. They must not waiver. They must understand that now that their plan is passed and that it allows the debt ceiling to be raised, the House GOP’s hand strengthens every day closer to August 2nd. And if this debacle goes past August 2nd, the House GOP is in charge as long as it holds the freaking line.”
Things aren’t much better at places such as the Heritage Foundation. David Addington, Heritage vice president of domestic and economic policy studies and former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, dismisses the Gang of Six proposal as “the third Senate-originated half-baked idea this week.”
“There’s plenty in the Gang of Six Plan for President Obama — he gets his tax hikes and, in reality, he gets to borrow lots more money. But the American people don’t really get much of anything, except the usual empty promise of action in the future…. Conservatives should stop the Gang of Six Plan.”
A peek at the calendar tells me that Aug. 2 is now 13 days away.
– Jay Bookman