In this discussion on Larry Kudlow’s show, I reiterate the central point from my National Review article and explain that the government shutdown in 1995 led to real fiscal restraint. If that was a loss for the GOP, I hope they lose again this year.
But will this happen? If Republicans don’t surrender, a shutdown is inevitable. The Democrats clearly have adopted a rope-a-dope strategy, hoping GOPers will preemptively compromise. Here’s an excerpt from a story in the Washington Times.
A top Senate Democrat said Sunday that the $6 billion in additional spending cuts that his party offered is the limit Democrats can accept — drawing a line well short of Republicans’ goal with less than two weeks to go before a government shutdown if the two sides can’t agree. Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber, said the $6 billion proposal, released Friday, has “pushed this to the limit” on domestic spending. …Meanwhile, the Senate’s top Republican said his talks with President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. show that the White House is not serious about tackling longer-term spending challenges, making it difficult for Congress to work with the president. …“I’ve had plenty of conversations with them. What I don’t see now is any willingness to do anything that’s difficult,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said on CBS‘ “Face the Nation” program. “So far, I don’t see the level of seriousness that we need.”
There’s no reason why Republicans should unilaterally compromise, but I’m worried. One major problem for the GOP is a misguided focus on red ink. Too many people, including Senators, Representatives, pundits, and policy wonks, keep talking about deficits and debt. Government borrowing is not desirable, but red ink is merely a symptom of excessive spending.
This is why all the focus should be about controlling the size and scope of Washington. That’s not only smart economics, it’s also astute politics. If the short-term question is how to save $61 billion from FY2011 spending levels and the long-term question is how to cap federal government spending at 20 percent of GDP, higher taxes obviously are not relevant.
But if Republicans keep talking about deficits and debt, that automatically puts tax increases on the table. And the primary long-run goal of the Democrats is to seduce GOPers into going along with a tax increase.
The next thing to watch for is what happens, presumably later today, when the Senate votes on the House plan and the Democrat’s proposal. The Associated Press is probably correct that these are key test votes.
The Senate appears likely to reject both a slashing GOP budget bill and a less ambitious Democratic alternative. …Neither measure can muster the 60 votes required under Senate procedures to advance; not a single Democrat is likely to vote for the GOP measure, and some may shy away from the Democratic bill as well. That could put pressure on House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as well as other congressional leaders of both parties to find a compromise. …By the same standard, the vote on the Senate Democratic alternative — it would cut about $5 billion from domestic agencies compared with about $60 billion under the House GOP plan — is unlikely to get unanimous support from Democrats, especially moderates up for re-election in 2012.
What Republicans need to understand is that they hold the trump card. Taxpayers will save much more than $61 billion if Democratic obstinacy results in a government shutdown.