Republicans have done their best to stop Democrats from spending American into decline. At nearly every opportunity they went to the mat—at great political risk to themselves—to limit the size of government, and the hit to taxpayers’ wallets. They used every ounce of leverage at their disposal—from threatening to breach the debt ceiling to allowing the U.S. go over the fiscal cliff—to try and get Democrats to the negotiating table.
It didn’t work. Republicans simply lacked the leverage (and the bully pulpit of the White House) and wound up being painted as partisan obstructionist. Following the fiscal cliff debate Republicans decided to stop being the scapegoat and they devised a strategy to finally wrest some momentum and leverage from the lefties. As Charles Krauthammer explained in Human Events:
The party establishment is coming around to the view that if you try to govern from one house — e.g., force spending cuts with cliffhanging brinkmanship — you lose. You not only don’t get the cuts. You get the blame for rattled markets and economic uncertainty. You get humiliated by having to cave in the end. And you get opinion polls ranking you below head lice and colonoscopies in popularity.
. . . Want to save the Republic? Win the next election. Don’t immolate yourself trying to save liberalism from itself. If your conservative philosophy is indeed right, winning will come. As Margaret Thatcher said serenely of the Labor Party socialists she later overthrew: “They always run out of other people’s money.”
Another conservative columnist and thinker, Philip Klein, dubbed the Republicans’ recalibration as “Maneuver X.” The strategy, essentially, is to remove all pressure from Obama. Allow him to have his debt limit increases, don’t threaten any government shut downs and generally allow him to flail about on any deficit reduction ideas.
Instead, Republicans should use the time and energy they were spending beating back Obama’s dumb ideas to actually sell their good ideas to the American public. As Klein explains, “Republicans should use their majority in the House to pass bills that actually do address the nation’s problems—its economic stagnation, rising energy and health care costs, mounting debt and so on.”
In this way Republicans become the sensible adults in the room and Democrats reveal themselves to be the extremist tax-and-spenders with no real plan for the future. That plan appears to be working. The Huffington Post reports:
President Barack Obama is asking Congress for a short-term deficit reduction package of spending cuts and tax revenue that will delay the effective date of steeper automatic cuts now scheduled to kick in on March 1. Obama said the looming cuts would be economically damaging and must be avoided.
The president reiterated his insistence on long-term deficit reduction that combines taxes and cuts, a blend that faces stiff resistance from anti-tax Republicans in Congress.
This is a surprising move since it was his White House that initially proposed the sequester. The move also comes after Obama previously promised to “veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending.” Now, with the jobs market still in bad shape and the economy contracting last quarter, President Obama suddenly finds himself with no leverage.
Republicans find themselves in a strong bargaining position. President Obama will have a difficult time blaming for Republicans for something that was his idea, especially given the fact that the GOP has already offered several plans to replace the sequester. Instead, he’s left to wail about the need for higher taxes, a much less compelling argument after his successful bid to pass one of the biggest tax hikes in American history.
For the time being Republicans appear happy to let Democrats cry about the need to not reduce our unsustainable deficits.
“It’s time for the Senate Democrats to do their work,” House Speaker John Boehner said today. “It’s time for the president to offer his ideas about how to replace the sequester.”
Give Democrats enough rope and they’re sure to hang themselves. It’s a new strategy that might just turn the tide.