The rationale behind Cantor’s dishonesty

THE RATIONALE BEHIND CANTOR’S DISHONESTY…. No matter how shameless congressional Republicans might be, the health care repeal push creates at least a little awkwardness.

For two years, the GOP has pretended to care deeply about the deficit and fiscal responsibility. And yet, in their very first week as the new House majority, these same Republicans have decided to push a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which would add more than $100 billion over the next decade.

How would Republicans pay for this? They wouldn’t — in fact, they’re creating an exception to their own rules, which they just created, that allows them to pursue repeal without regard for adding to the deficit that they pretend to consider important. It’s quite a way to start a new majority.

Asked to justify this, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has an explanation.

“…I think most people understand that the C.B.O. did the job it was asked to do by the then-Democrat [sic] majority, and it was really comparing apples to oranges,” Mr. Cantor said. “…Everyone knows beyond the 10-year window, this bill has the potential to bankrupt this federal government as well as the states.”

In Cantor’s mind, the CBO score showing significant deficit reduction is wrong, because Democrats cooked the books, creating “10 years’ worth of tax hikes and six years’ worth of benefits.” As such Republicans can repeal the entirety of the bill and not break their promise.

Cantor is either deeply confused or is deliberately telling falsehoods. For one thing, if Cantor were telling the truth, his caucus wouldn’t have to waive its own budget rules in order to pass the repeal bill. For another, if the argument were legit, Republicans wouldn’t be afraid to submit the repeal bill to the CBO for a score. For that matter, as Ezra Klein explained today, “[W]hat Cantor is saying just isn’t true” when one looks at the original CBO report the Majority Leader is referencing.

But the issue here isn’t just Cantor’s demonstrably false argument. It’s why he’s making it.

…Cantor and the GOP know full well that the bill is unpopular largely because people think it increases the deficit. Polls have shown that only 15 percent of Americans know that CBO said it will reduce the deficit. If, in the repeal fight, it becomes widely understood that the bill reduces the deficit, it will become more popular. So it’s crucial, as the repeal effort goes forward, for Republicans to become much more brazen in falsely asserting that the bill doesn’t really reduce the deficit, and that even if the CBO does say it reduces the deficit, that they’re saying that because they’ve been tricked somehow. But CBO wasn’t tricked. If it were, Cantor, who has a staff dedicated to figuring these things out, would have a better argument than the one he’s offering.

The moral of the story: confronted with an awkward political dispute, and evidence of Republicans violating their own stated principles with their own legislative agenda, the new majority isn’t above lying.