Shortly after the 2010 midterms, John Boehner looked ahead to how he’d deal with the debt ceiling as the Speaker of the House. “I’ve made it pretty clear to [my caucus] that as we get into next year, it’s pretty clear that Congress is going to have to deal with [the debt limit],” Boehner said. “We’re going to have to deal with it as adults. Whether we like it or not, the federal government has obligations and we have obligations on our part.”
Is anyone, anywhere, willing to make the argument that House Republicans are dealing with this issue “as adults”?
Yesterday, with leading Republican negotiators in the bipartisan debt-reduction talks quitting the process, we didn’t see political maturity; we saw a dangerous temper tantrum.
The two Republicans in the talks, Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, and Senator Jon Kyl, the minority whip, had no intention of actually negotiating. Negotiations require listening to those on the other side and giving them something they want in exchange for some of your goals.
That’s what this seems to boil down to: Republicans were incensed that Democrats want something out of this deal. It was as if Cantor was saying, “You don’t understand, this is our hostage strategy. You’re not allowed to ask for anything.”
That’s not really an exaggeration. As far as GOP leaders are concerned, they picked the game, so they also get to pick the rules. Republicans choose the policy goal (debt reduction); Republicans choose the solution (massive spending cuts); Republicans choose what gets taken off the table (tax increases); Republicans choose what Democrats are permitted to propose; and Republicans choose when the negotiations end.
After making all of this clear, Republicans urged President Obama to go along with what they perceive as “a bipartisan plan.”
For those who’ve succumbed to madness, “bipartisan” apparently means “Republicans get what they want and Democrats shut up.”
As things stand, Dems have reportedly agreed to about $2 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years. Though accounts vary as to exactly what Democrats want in exchange, they seem to be looking for roughly $400 billion in new revenue, including ending tax subsidies to Big Oil and capping deductions for the very wealthy.
These savings would, of course, be applied directly to deficit reduction, which Republicans claim as their top priority. But it’s never that simple — they want to reduce the debt, but only on their terms.
At this point, GOP leaders insist they won’t even consider talking to Dems until the party agrees to take the increased revenue off the table. If Republican “adults” still exist, they’re hiding well.