Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Scammed Again

In late January, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan said defaulting on the debt

isn't viable. "Just refusing to vote for it, I don't think that's really a strategy," he said, noting that a failure to raise the ceiling could result in the nation defaulting on its debts to investors.

"Will the debt ceiling be raised? Does it have to be raised? Yes," he said at an event sponsored by economics21 and the Manhattan Institute at the National Press Club Thursday.

Late in January, House Speaker John Boehner told GOP TV's Chris Wallace that defaulting on the debt

would be a financial disaster not only for our country, but for the worldwide economy. Remember, the American people on Election Day said we want to cut spending and we want to create jobs. You can't create jobs if you default on the federal debt.

So naturally, Democrats held out against spending cuts, which would damage the economy. Apparently not:

The House's GOP leaders appear to be the big winners following passage Tuesday of legislation to temporarily fund the federal government for two weeks and cut $4 billion from current federal spending to boot.

That more than 100 Democrats joined Republicans in a whopping 335-91 vote for the stopgap spending bill was the kind of showing that would let Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) boast of a major bipartisan success and neutralize any Democratic charges of partisanship.

Surely, at least President Obama, recalling the damage to the GOP brand when House Speaker Newt Gingrich forced a government shutdown in 1994, urged his Democratic colleagues to hold firm. Not so much:

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at Tuesday's briefing that the President and Speaker Boehner had a "productive and useful conversation" that day concerning their difference over the length of a stopgap CR.

"I see no reason and I don't believe we see any reason why we cannot engage as we have been... in this process going forward," Carney added. "We have made clear that we can accept, even over a relatively short period of time, $8 billion in cuts that we can agree on. I think that is a substantial number and demonstrates [the president's] commitment to the need to tighten our belts, as long as we protect essential functions of government, national security, and don't do anything that would hurt our ability to grow or create jobs."

Fortunately, Senate Democrats are enraged about the cuts in the bill. The Hill reports

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) bashed Republican calls to cut the women, infants, children (WIC) health and nutrition program, according to a Democratic source familiar with the closed-door discussion. She distributed fliers to other Democratic senators that listed arguments against the GOP proposal. The WIC cuts are not in the stopgap measure approved by the House on Tuesday.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) spoke out against cuts to Planned Parenthood and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) argued against cuts to the Army Corps of Engineers that she said would stall crucial water projects in California and around the country, according to a Democratic source.

Finally, two Democrats willing to stand up to Republican attempts to cater to the tea parties and and to keep the economy mired in an economic slump. Maybe not:

“I don’t like this death by 1,000 cuts, but I also don’t want a government shutdown,” said Mikulski, a senior member of the Appropriations panel.

“These are huge cuts,” said Feinstein, chairwoman of the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy.

“The Army Corps and bureau is cut by $554 million, so what I’ve wanted to do is add some back to it,” Feinstein said of the House GOP’s two-week spending measure.

But Feinstein conceded that she may vote for it anyway.

It's easy to sympathize with Mikulski, Feinstein, and the House Democrats who were uncomfortable with the measure when, as Frank James of NPR observes, "Republican leaders incorporated proposed spending cuts Obama had made in the two-week bill, making it easier to co-opt many of the House Democrats." Noting that Republicans have proposed $61 billion in spending cuts in the current fiscal year, due to end September 30, James remarks "there are likely to be more short-term spending bills. And House Republicans have just proved they can get closer to their goal incrementally. Four billion down, $57 billion to go." Majority Leader Reid expects the Senate to approve the two-week extension by the end of the week.

David Dayen likens the strategy of Senate liberals to the "Wait Till Next Year" cry of the old Brooklyn Dodgers. Digby may not be entirely jesting when she suggests

I have heard that one of the big Democratic ideas is to just keep issuing continuing resolutions up until the 2012 election. If this is going to be the way they do it, the Republicans must be thrilled. By then, they will have dismantled everything but faith based programs, the border patrol and the Pentagon.

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