Greg Sargent reports: A senior Senate Democratic aide tells me that in today’s private meeting at the White House, Speaker John Boehner signaled to the President and to Harry Reid that Republicans were not willing to support any budget compromise that can’t garner the votes of 218 Republicans in the House.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan has published his proposal for downsizing the federal government. In the hours and days to come, you're going to hear a lot of different numbers from his proposal. But let me draw your attention to a figure that's not in there: 32 million. Based on the available information, that's roughly the number of people likely to lose health insurance, relative to current law, if the budget were to become reality. The spending blueprint calls explicitly for repealing the Affordable Care Act.
I have a feeling that a lot of the political handicapping of the possibility of a shutdown is getting the dynamic a bit wrong. You see a lot of speculation about the possibility that many House Republicans will defect from a deal to cut spending by $33 billion, and keep it from getting through the House. That's probably not the real impediment.
Oh, those pesky modern phones. On Tuesday, Senator Charles Schumer convened a media conference call of Democratic senators, in order to talk about the budget negotiations. Moments before the call was to start, Schumer briefed the other senators on the talking points they should be using. But the phone line for the call was already open and reporters heard Schumer's instructions, word for word: "I always use the word extreme,” Schumer said, describing Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
Last Friday, Republican Speaker John Boehner announced he would convene a legal advisory group to authorize the House of Representatives to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. This week, this group voted in favor of Boehner’s proposal. The move was in direct response to the Obama administration’s decision in February to stop defending Section 3 of DOMA. “[T]his action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution,” Boehner said.
Up until now, a government shutdown because of a stalemate over the budget was a strong possibility, but it didn’t appear inevitable. That’s because House Speaker John Boehner stands to be badly hurt by the train wreck a shutdown would be, and I’m confident—from what he’s said and because he was around the last time it happened—that he realizes it.
President Obama’s newly released budget avoids any offer to fix the long-term, structural deficits that his fiscal commission put on the table, and in doing so confronts his Republican critics with a choice: take the lead (and the heat) for proposing entitlement cuts or admit to your followers that you can’t meet your own long-term spending targets. After sending mixed signals for a few days, Republican leaders have decided to take the lead and hope for the best.
I think Ezra Klein is correct in Wonkbook (which remains excellent, by the way—anyone wanting to keep up with policy developments should really make it a daily must) about what really mattered in the House this week. It’s how easily the leadership was rolled by the rank and file on spending: This loss, much more than the failed votes on the extension of the PATRIOT Act or funds for the United Nations (both of which were brought to the floor under a rule requiring a 2/3rd majority for passage) shows that the House GOP leadership has little sway and less control over the rank-and-file.
NPR today had what strikes me as a wildly slanted report on the controversial National Portrait Gallery exhibit 'Hide/Seek,' which honors the contribution of gay and lesbian artists. The exhibit created controversy because, under political pressure from conservatives, it removed a video depicting ants crawling on a crucifix. The unchallenged point of view conveyed by the report was that opponents of the exhibit claimed they were offended on religious grounds but actually were anti-gay bigots: The show had been open for a month, and hadn't received a single complaint.
Imagine if the board of a Fortune 500 company required the company’s vice presidents to obtain board approval before implementing any decision. Now imagine that the board is highly polarized and its members are at each other’s throats. A recipe for corporate gridlock, right? Amazingly, House Speaker John Boehner, Senator Jim DeMint, and other prominent Republicans are embracing this dubious chain-of-command for the federal government.