What's Going On in Washington
By their nature, Continuing Resolutions are mischievous devices, and the fight over the upcoming ‘CR’ vote in September is proof of how broken Washington has become. One short CR is going to replace the entire federal budget and determine government spending for a year. The whole process is essentially a dodge, allowing legislators to avoid casting tough budget votes on specific spending cuts by, instead, casting one vote on a CR, and saying, "well, I couldn’t let the government shut down," and leaving town.
On the upcoming CR, President Obama has said to Republicans, as bluntly as possible, that he wants a CR that continues spending as usual. Period. No negotiating. No compromises. If Republicans try to pass a CR that cuts spending the President will veto it, the government will shut down, and Republicans will be blamed.
If President Obama’s goal is to divide Republicans – he has succeeded. Because the Republicans in Congress can’t agree on how to answer his ultimatum.
The Conservatives in Congress have their eyes fixed on one goal: Cutting spending. They believe without spending cuts it’s just a matter of time before we have an economic meltdown. Conservatives also understand if the Republicans give in to President Obama’s threat now, then, in the future, whenever there’s a budget or a CR, the President will simply roll out the same old sandbag. He’ll say, "spend what I want or the government will shut down," then there will never be any spending cuts.
The Leadership in the House, if it has its druthers, would cut spending too. But it has its eyes fixed on other issues as well, like winning the next election. And, to be candid, the Republican Leadership is afraid President Obama can make his threat stick – that if Republicans don’t pass the Continuing Resolution the government will shut down and Obama will see to it that Republicans are blamed – which could cost Republicans the next election.
That’s the difference between the two Republican camps. The Leadership's afraid of the consequences of telling Obama "No", while Conservatives believe Republicans have to tell Obama "No"– then go to work explaining to voters that the President’s the one to blame for any government shutdown – because he refused to cut his runaway spending.
Former Senator Jim DeMint, leader of the respected Heritage Foundation, wrote an articulate op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging Republicans to stick by their guns and fight for cuts regardless of the political risks. Specifically, he suggests Congressmen sign a pledge (sponsored by Senator Mike Lee and Congressman Mark Meadows) opposing a Continuing Resolution that funds Obamacare.
Given the mess Obamacare’s created, that’s more than reasonable. And I agree - the CR should defund Obamacare. I’d also be happy to require the Democrats to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment and send it to the states for ratification before passing a CR, because the long-term cure to politicians, well, spending like politicians is to put constitutional limits on spending.
But, in the end, I’m afraid the CR that emerges in September will do none of those things. Instead, it will allow President Obama to go on spending and piling up debt as usual. That’s why I agree with Senator DeMint. It’s time, this year, on the Continuing Resolution, to draw a line in the sand and say "No" to more broken Washington politics and more spending.