Does Ryan Actually Believe That Budget Process Nonsense?

Look, I admit it: the silly GOP talking point about the Senate not passing budget resolutions bothers me more than, perhaps, it should. Oh, it’s a stupid talking point, alright, no question about that (and massively hypocritical; failures to pass Budget Resolutions started under GOP control of Congress). It conflates budgeting, which is an important business, with passage of Budget Resolutions, which may or may not be particularly important.

Anyway, I guess the reason that it gets so much attention is that top Republicans, including Paul Ryan, keep using it as if it means something. For example, in a column (with Buck McKeon) today about military spending, Ryan starts with a partisan but not crazy description of the debt limit fight:

When House Republicans made clear that any increase in the debt limit must be accompanied by an even greater amount of spending reduction, the President insisted that he would not accept a debt-limit deal that did not include large tax increases on American families and businesses.

I mean, I could quibble with some of that, but yes, Barack Obama wanted higher taxes than the Republicans. But then he says:

All of this work was made more difficult by the Senate’s failure to pass any budgets at all in 2010 or 2011. 

Really? Exactly how were the debt limit negotiations made more difficult by the Senate’s failure to pass FY 2011 and FY 2012 Budget Resolutions? Did Democrats not know their own position? Of course not; Barack Obama had submitted a budget (well, actually, an original and a supplemental budget) that served as the first-cut Democratic position. Did Republicans not know the Democrats’ position? Of course not. They, too, had Obama’s budget. Were Democrats not prepared for the details involved in complex budget negotiations? To the contrary; the president’s budget was far more detailed than either of Ryan’s House-passed budgets have been.

Of course, Ryan here is just indulging in a little partisan cheap shot here. Which is, certainly, what you expect of partisan hacks, although not so much of those who are trying to get treated as “Serious” legislators. But I continue to be baffled by the whole thing — it just doesn’t strike me as a particularly effective talking point, although perhaps it focus groups that way — leading me to suspect that it’s Paul Ryan himself who actually, and foolishly, cares about it.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.