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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is Paul Ryan's Deal Something Paul Ryan Can Support?

There are three things I can pretty much guarantee happened this morning; the sun came up, newspapers were delivered to doorsteps, and Paul Ryan wetted his finger and stuck it out the window, to see which way the Tea Party winds were blowing. After working out a budget deal that takes a little bit of the bite out of the sequester, Rep. Ryan is likely measuring the pulse of his colleagues in his chamber -- and finding that pulse is a little more agitated by his deal than he might've hoped.

Over at Business Insider, Brett LoGiurato has an article up, the headline of which says it all: "Conservatives Are Starting To Freak Out About The Budget Deal." The Heritage Foundation doesn't like it, the Tea Party doesn't like it... In short, the base hates it. A man who still reportedly harbors presidential ambitions, Paul Ryan has always tried to walk a fine line between seeming to be the moderate Republicans who can win a general election and the Tea Party extremist who can win Republican primaries. And in attempting this balancing act, he has largely failed. If there's on person you can count on to oppose a deal swung by Paul Ryan, it's Paul Ryan. If the 'baggers hate it, he's going to hate it. Because, let's face it, winning the GOP primary is the first step in winning the White House. So it's first things first; make sure the rightwing extremists are happy, then try to figure out how to explain it to everyone else later.


And the extremists are unhappy.

Brian Beutler: ...19 conservatives didn’t exactly say the deal should go down. But in a letter to House GOP leadership, they basically opposed the terms of the negotiation and pressed Speaker John Boehner to bring legislation to the floor that would undercut it.

“[W]e encourage you to allow a vote as soon as practicable on a full-year ‘clean CR’ funding bill at the levels established in law by the Budget Control Act,” the letter reads. “Democrats are not interested in solving the problems created by the sequester: they are only interested in using the threat of the cuts as leverage to increase spending across the board, to increase our national debt, and to raise taxes and fees.”
All of which brings up the specter of another government shutdown. I know the conventional wisdom is that Republicans have learned their lesson from the last one, but that argument fails on two important points:

  • Republicans don't really do lesson learning. If they did, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell would not be the GOP leaders in their respective chambers today.
  • It ignores the fact that Republicans haven't really paid much of a price for the shutdown. Sure, their numbers crashed right after it. But the media turned their attention to the bungled rollout, knocking GOP shutdown stories off the front page. The religious extremist Tea Party types no doubt see the hand of God -- or at least the power of prayer -- in this, shielding them from the public's wrath and visiting it upon their most bitter enemy, Pres. Obama. If it happened once, it will probably happen again.
I'll admit, the second point is offered with tongue in cheek -- but barely. I have no doubt that a big chunk of the 19 signatories believe this or something similar -- especially Dominionist messiah Ted Cruz. And I have as little doubt that there are plenty in the House caucus that would be persuaded by this argument -- and plenty more who will go along just to pretend to be persuaded. The difference between a religious nutjob and someone who's only pretending to be a religious nutjob is pretty much nonexistent in a practical sense. And the 'baggers who aren't religious extremists are all phonies who pretend to be to win elections.

So don't be surprised if this big bipartisan deal fizzles out under pressure from the House Wingnut Caucus. And don't be surprised if you see Paul Ryan turning the screws to up that pressure.


[photo by Gage Skidmore]

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