Let’s put this in a little perspective.
First, a phrase I like: Elections have consequences. If you vote for someone, they might do what they say they are going to do.
The election of President Obama in 2008 had consequences. If Americans aren’t particularly wild about health reform, then why did they vote for a man who promised he was going to enact health reform?
And now the 2010 election has had a consequence, and frankly, a consequence exceeding the election result.
For a Party that seized only one House of Congress and does not control the presidency, the Republicans got way more than they should have expected out of the 2011 budget battle.
I would have preferred a shutdown, because it would have made boldly clear where the country stood on cutting the deficit, depending on which side they backed. If they backed Speaker Boehner, it would have vastly strengthened his hand going into the much more important and sizable budget fights to come. If they supported Obama, we’d know the country isn’t ready yet for serious cuts.
But the compromise reached last night is nevertheless a victory for Boehner and a template for a broader deal later this year on the ten-year FY2012 budget, which is of far greater consequence. Boehner, the hoary congressional dealmaker, played Obama pretty well.
First, let’s look at the amount cut. The number being cited this morning is the $38-$39 billion cut from the 2010 level. But what’s not often noted is that Republicans slashed some $79 billion from Obamas proposed 2011 budget. That’s a huge White House concession. Programs costs are often measured in 10-year windows, meaning the cut is actually – given the propensity of programs to expand – probably north of a $1 trillion over 10 years from what Obama wanted.
Republicans were forced to drop “riders” on the bill that would have defunded Panned Parenthood, the health reform law, National Public Radio, the EPA regulation of greenhouse gases, and the FCC implementation of “net neutrality” regulations.
But let’s face it, my friends. These were not policy proposals. They were poker chips. They were take-it-or-leave it demands that could never make it through a Democratic Senate and past a Democratic president.
Remember, voters could have conceivably taken the Senate away from Democrats and given it to the Republicans. They didn’t. Elections have consequences.
Fact is, the White House was correct all week when it declared that it had already given a lot.
And then it gave more, adding about $6 billion to the $33 billion it claimed the Republicans had agreed to and allowing a few policy riders on the bill that will really piss off the Democratic base.
These include: Up-or-down Senate votes on whether to defund the health reform law and whether to remake federal aid to planned parenthood into state block grants; a school voucher program for District of Columbia kids and a ban on the use of any public funds for abortions in the District; an annual audit of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created by the financial reform bill and which is despised by many Republicans; and a ban on funds for transferring Gitmo prisoners to the United States.
Most of these things are minor, but the health reform vote will be a big deal because the result will set up the political fight over the legislation for 2012 and lurk in the back of the minds of Justices who will decide the law’s constitutionality.
Overall, Boehner did his Party well. If they rebel against him for getting more than would have seemed realistic even a few weeks ago, they are mistaken.