Posted in: HPRgument Blog

Budget Battle Lines

By | March 6, 2011

David Gregory hosted White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley this morning on Meet the Press, and the two spoke at length about Daley’s efforts to avoid a government shutdown. Those efforts involve substantial negotiation with Speaker John Boehner (Surprisingly, Paul Ryan’s name didn’t come up in the clip). Gregory asked Daley a great question about Boehner’s power as a negotiating partner, to which he received a non-answer:

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Right now, Boehner and Paul are in the political middle of the three most relevant groups (Republican freshmen first-years, House leadership, White House); but for next year’s budget, the alliances will switch, and the leadership will move to the far right while the new members shift to the center.

I heard last week in a speech from a former Midwestern Congressman (who served through 2010; the speech may have been off the record, so I won’t give his name) that what Paul Ryan really wants is to have his budget for 2012. As Jonathan Cohn noted a month ago, “Since [the rest of FY 2011 is] only about half a year, Ryan and the rest of the Republican leadership originally said it wasn’t essential they actually find $100 billion in cuts right away.” Instead, Ryan wants to make the radical changes detailed in his Roadmap, which everyone understands cannot be legislated in the next two weeks. This leaves the House leadership wishing to side with Obama as a matter of convenience. It wants to just move on to writing next year’s budget, and Obama wants to avoid the cuts that are currently being proposed. Essentially, they’re agreeing to leave this round near the status quo and proceed to the next round of fighting.

But for that round, Ryan and his newly-elected Republican colleagues will swap places on the spectrum. I’ve already linked to the position Ryan prefers. And the new members don’t want to be so extreme. As Robert Costa wrote in January in National Review,

Across the land, fiscal conservatives applaud the rise of the 40-year-old wonk. But the cheers in Congress are more sporadic: Unflinching endorsements of Ryan’s fiscal blueprint are rare. Apparently, the new majority is in no mood — yet — for a full-spectrum fight on entitlements

Costa gives a lot of quotes showing a lukewarm reception to Ryan’s plan, but he fails to suggest — beyond his parenthetical above — that the GOP will come around to fully embrace it. The bulk of the Republican party will not want to go near the level of entitlement reform/cuts (choose your own loaded term!) which Ryan is proposing for 2012 and beyond.

This all means that whomever the punditry declares the “winner” of the upcoming budget battle, the lines will be drawn fresh for the next one.

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