The House GOP’s Balanced Empty Gesture

Having struck out on devising some sort of big budget-cutting measure, or some highly symbolic victory (e.g., approval of the Keystone XL pipeline or cancellation of Obamacare “risk corridor” subsidies), it looks like the House GOP is settling on a debt limit “plan” that would mix together popular spending measures (the annual Medicare “doc patch” adjusting reimbursement rates for providers plus restoration of the military pension COLAs reduced in the Ryan-Murray budget “deal”) with ill-defined spending cuts to pay for the goodies.

I really don’t get it. Best we can tell, congressional Democrats and the White House are united on a “clean” debt limit bill. Some Republicans in both Houses will vote “no” on any debt limit increase. Others won’t risk voting for one (particularly if they know it will pass anyway) unless it has big-time eye candy for “the base.” So this “balanced” approach with more spending and more cuts doesn’t strike me as a very feasible way to make an empty gesture.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.