March of the Lemmings?

Before spending any more time bashing Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, let’s pause for a moment and gaze in wonder at the determination of House Republicans to identify themselves with this document. All but ten of them voted for it. They have zero bipartisan cover. They know for a fact that it will go nowhere in the Senate.

Yet not only have they insisted on going on the record for this turkey, they are now going to pretend it was indeed enacted in the Senate, and go through a bizarre exercise in pretending to implement it, so that they can then pretend to have avoided the defense “sequesters” agreed to in last year’s debt limit agreement. Yes, it will have a real-life effect on the behavior of House appropriators in negotiations with the Senate late in the year, making another government shutdown very likely, but other than that, the whole thing is a petulant exercise in play-acting.

Why?

David Rogers of Politico asks that question today, and sort of shrugs and says:

This appears to reflect three forces. First is the relentless pressure on GOP leaders to tack to the right to appease tea party conservatives.

Second is the entrenched power of Republican defense hawks, often reliable votes for Boehner on other issues and a bloc to which he is very responsive. The lament that the Pentagon must be protected from cuts reached the point in the Budget Committee markup last week that Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) began listing all the wars for which he felt America had been unprepared: He included “the War for Independence.”

Third, as the debt problem has grown, the tone of the annual budget debate seems to have changed. Factions in both parties appear more likely to stake out extreme positions that have little bearing on political reality

.

All in all, it appears House Republicans are so upset that they were backed into a bipartisan agreement last year (though it was basically an agreement not to agree, and to put into place a failsafe spending cut mechanism to punish them if they continued to fail to agree) that they want to put on a demonstration of what Congress would be like if there were no Democrats in it. Democrats should be very grateful.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.