Boehner’s budget plan: the policy and the politics

The House Republican leadership is spending much of the day trying to rally GOP support for Speaker John Boehner’s (R) new budget proposal. It’s worth pausing to consider the plan from two very different angles: the policy and the politics.

On the more substantive front, the political world needs to understand that Boehner’s measure is a disaster. Bob Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and one of the nation’s leading experts on these issues, published an important analysis of the Speaker’s plan late yesterday.

House Speaker John Boehner’s new budget proposal would require deep cuts in the years immediately ahead in Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees, the repeal of health reform’s coverage expansions, or wholesale evisceration of basic assistance programs for vulnerable Americans.

The plan is, thus, tantamount to a form of “class warfare.” If enacted, it could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history. This may sound hyperbolic, but it is not. The mathematics are inexorable.

Remember, Greenstein isn’t some unhinged polemicist. If anything, he’s generally understated and cautious in his rhetoric.

There are a handful of conservative House Democrats — including members like Jim Matheson and Jim Cooper — who haven’t yet decided whether to support the Boehner measure. Here’s hoping they see the CBPP report before the vote.

And then there’s the politics. The key to Boehner’s larger plan is passing his budget proposal tomorrow, then daring Democrats to defeat it. If Dems balk, the likelihood of a disaster next week inches closer to 100%. If Dems cave and accept the Speaker’s plan, Boehner does severe damage to the economy, working families, and seniors, which apparently is his main goal.

The question, then, is whether Boehner can get to 217 votes and set his plan in motion. There’s reason for skepticism.

One of the most influential conservatives in Congress says he’s confident his own Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will lack the votes to pass his plan to raise the debt limit in the House of Representatives.

Complicating matters further for Boehner — the Dems’ top vote counter wryly suggested at a simultaneous press briefing that few, if any, Democrats will vote for the GOP’s bill, since there is a preferable Democratic plan waiting in the wings. That suggests House conservatives are holding the line against any debt limit increase that can plausibly pass the Senate — and that Democrats will have added leverage to muscle their own plan through both chambers.

“I am confident as of this morning that there are not 218 Republicans in support of the plan,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) told reporters at a Tuesday morning press briefing.

Right-wing activist groups are still against it, and in fact, the Heritage Foundation began lobbying against it today. Also, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), inexplicably a leading presidential candidate, announced her opposition today as well. [Update: The Club for Growth has announced it also wants GOP lawmakers to reject Boehner’s plan.]

If Boehner’s plan can’t get to 217, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D) $2.7 trillion package may be the last plan standing. It would, quite possibly, set the GOP up with a simple proposition: pass Reid’s $2.7 trillion in cuts with no revenue, or cause an economic catastrophe.