House Republicans realized they were backed into a corner. Democrats control the Senate and the White House and were dead set on pushing the nation to the brink of default to ensure government spending would not be cut. It was a game that Democrats knew they could win; with the media on their side they could paint Republicans as extremist, blame any market disruptions on them and, in the end, get Republicans to cave.
Rather than play the game, House Republicans started a new one…one they stand a chance of winning. The new strategy began last week when the House passed a bill to suspend the federal debt limit until May 18 with only one string attached. It wasn’t enormous cuts, it wasn’t any reforms to entitlements, no, it was simple – the Senate need only follow the law and pass a budget, something they hadn’t done in nearly four years.
Slate’s Matty Yglesias explains why:
Republicans have been complaining for years that Senate Democrats aren’t writing and voting on formal budget plans. Democrats’ stated reasoning for this has been that there’s no point in passing a budget resolution that’s dead on arrival in the House of Representatives, especially when budget policy is actually made in high-stakes negotiations between House leaders and the Obama administration.
But their real reason for the budget negligence was more political. Democrats have shied away from voting for budgets that either contain large tax increases or large budget deficits and have been divided among themselves over how best to proceed. The GOP believes that forcing Democrats to go on the record with a budget will be a political bonanza.
“Democrats have always intended to do a budget this year,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said on Meet the Press. “And it’s going to have revenues in it. And our Republican colleagues better get used to that fact.”
What Schumer, and every Democrat, misses is that raising taxes is not just and indication that they are successfully imposing their will on Republicans. It’s not about securing a political victory. This is not some Washington cat and mouse game. Higher taxes have real implications on Americans. It’s more money being taken out of people’s paychecks each month; it’s stretched family budgets; less money for food, diapers and utility bills; it’s less money in the economy; and it’s less money for businesses to hire new workers or invest in new equipment. Taxes have consequences.
It’s not as if Schumer is begrudging in his recognition that revenues will be part of their budget package, he’s downright gleeful at the though. “We need a budget . . . it’s a great opportunity to get us some more revenues,” he said.
Washington Senator Patty Murray, who recently took the reins as the Senate Democrats’ top budget officer, reiterated Schumer’s insistence on revenues.
In an internal memo leaked to the Washington Post, Murray writes “Revenue Must Be Included in Any Deal,” which was boldfaced and underlined for emphasis.
This newfound willingness to embrace revenues shows the Republican plan is working. Previously Democrats had been wildly successful at selling voters a tempting batch of snake oil: we can not only have enormous government programs, but we don’t have to pay for them! What’s to lose. Now, finally, Democrats are having to own up to the true cost of their agenda. No more free lunches. As the New York Times’ Ross Douthat writes,
“For the edifice of the liberal welfare state to endure in anything like its current form – the president’s health care law very much included – taxes need to rise, and rise, and then probably rise some more. We’re not collecting the revenue we need to support the spending we want,” the left-leaning economist Jared Bernstein says in today’s Times story on taxation trends, and that has to be liberals’s rallying cry for the foreseeable future, or else the government they want cannot be sustained.”
If Republicans’ latest gambit is successful that behind-the-scenes reality will be brought into the open.