John Boehner and Paul Ryan have cooked up a debt ceiling plan that is so unpopular that it hands the Democrats the 2014 election. It is truly one of the most transparently stupid strategies ever.
The National Journal reported that Paul Ryan and John Boehner are working on a list of debt ceiling “options:”
House Speaker John Boehner is now working with several leading conservatives – including Scalise and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan – to draft the options menu.
It is based on what’s known as the Ryan budget, according to Rep. Tom Price, a far-right spending plan passed by the House that’s been written off by Democrats as nothing more than a political document that decimates support for the poor and hurts the middle class. And it will outline what Obama will have to agree to for whatever length extension he wants.
For a long-term deal, one that gives Treasury borrowing authority for three-and-a-half years, Obama would have to agree to premium support. The plan to privatize Medicare, perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Ryan budget, is the holy grail for conservatives who say major deficit-reduction can only be achieved by making this type of cut to mandatory spending. “If the president wants to go big, there’s a big idea,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, chairman of the Republican Study Committee.
For a medium-sized increase in the debt-limit, Republicans want Obama to agree to cut spending in the SNAP food stamp program, block-grant Medicaid, or tinker with chained CPI.
For a smaller increase, there is talk of means-testing Social Security, for example, or ending certain agricultural subsidies.
While the menu includes plenty of variables, the underlying strategic goal is to reduce mandatory spending — whatever the scope of the deal. Even at the smallest end of the spectrum — another months-long extension of debt-limit — there is talk of pushing back the eligibility age for Social Security by an equal number of months.
House Republicans are and will try to sell this as their attempt to compromise, but everything major on their list of options contains nothing that President Obama and congressional Democrats want. Boehner and Ryan are seemingly clueless to the fact that they are trying to win the message war with a really lousy message that has already been repeatedly rejected by the voters. If they want to make the 2014 election about Medicare and Social Security, Democrats will be more than happy to do that.
The House is responsible for raising the debt ceiling. President Obama doesn’t have to agree to any of these options, because he isn’t running for reelection ever again. Obama can say no to them all, and Democrats can use these options against Republicans in the 2014 election campaign. Boehner and Ryan are setting the whole Republican Party up for failure next year.
House Republicans may think they are safe, but how safe will they be if they vote to privatize Medicare and Social Security before their reelection campaigns kick off? If House Republicans stay on this course, they will also force Republican Senate candidates to say whether they support privatizing Medicare and Social Security.
President Obama isn’t going to agree to any of this, and on the off chance that he would, Senate Democrats have repeatedly vowed to kill anything that touches Social Security and Medicare. In short, the Boehner/Ryan/House GOP plan is already DOA.
Boehner and Ryan think that they will avoid the political fallout from another debt ceiling debacle if they give President Obama an option for which hostage he would like them to kill. None of this is going to work, and House Republicans are probably going to end up caving at the last possible second again. It has been years since this president tried to compromise with Republicans and got slapped in the face. Obama’s strategy for the last two plus years has shifted to waiting the House Republicans out. There is no reason for him to do anything different this time.
The Stupid Linings Playbook that House Republicans are preparing sounds like something straight out of Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand fantasies. If you are a Democrat, or anti this bunch of Republicans, you should be encouraging Boehner and Ryan every step of the way. The playbook that Boehner and Ryan are pulling from is broken. It doesn’t work anymore. Yet, House Republicans keep going back to it. They are arrogantly marching towards their own self destruction, and Democrats shouldn’t do a damn thing to stop them.