Well, as Dutch Reagan might say, here we go again. The Republicans in the House are getting ready to unveil a new budget proposal, one that apparently will call for major changes in personal and corporate tax rates and stiff spending cuts.
My bracket selections have a better shot of coming out on top in the March Madness pool. And without putting too fine a point on it, I have no chance. Zero. Zilch.
So I wonder why in an election year the GOP wants to take the lead in heading down this road to nowhere? Hey, the Democrats in DC haven’t passed a budget in three some years. So what’s the rush? And given that the GOP is going to get its collective lunch eaten in November, it seems strange that they would invite all the Dems and other miscreants to what will be an all-you-can-eat buffett over a budget — when most don’t want anything to change if it involves them.
Well, I heard the architect of the budget plan, Paul Ryan, say on Morning Joe that it was the obligation and responsibility of lawmakers to step up to the plate on this. Well, yeah, you would think that might be the case. But politics raises its ugly head as well.
The budget proposal aims to define where the Republicans stand in a presidential election year in contrast to the guy who is currently sitting in the Oval Office. Good strategy.
Here’s from WaPo, “Paul Ryan’s budget is bad politics. Just ask Republicans“:
To much fanfare, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan will unveil his 2012 budget plan in Washington today.
The debut of the House Budget Committee chairman’s vision for what conservative governance could and should look like might win him kudos from the conservative policy class, but it elicits only groans from GOP political professionals.
“As a campaign issue, the budget is a significant challenge for GOP candidates,” said Bob Honold, a GOP strategist and partner at Revolution Agency. “As a campaign strategy, it is so much more difficult for Republicans to communicate their responsible solutions than it is for Democrats to spook seniors with rhetoric.”
Another senior GOP strategist was far more blunt. “Didn’t they learn their lesson?” the source asked. “House Republicans are still under the mistaken impression they have to lead. It’s a presidential election year; they’re along for the ride.”
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) sought to paint the Ryan budget in the best possible political light during a briefing with reporters on Monday.
“I believe that we will get credit for effectively, first of all, having a budget, which the Democrats failed to do,” said Sessions. “I think the public will give us credit for having answers, and I think they’ll give us credit for being credible about the plight that we’re in.”
Maybe. But, the concern within Republican campaign ranks is that Ryan’s budget plays out much like it did when he put out his “Path to Prosperity” last year.
In that budget document, Ryan called for Medicare to be transformed into a voucher program — a proposal that Democrats immediately seized on and used to great effect in a surprising special election victory in upstate New York.
For their part, Republican presidential candidates did everything they could to pretend that the Ryan budget didn’t exist — expressing general praise for the idea of a conservative alternative to the Obama budget but avoiding any support for specific proposals. (The one exception was former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who offered his unequivocal support for the Ryan plan. And we saw how far that carried him.)
The debate over the politics of Ryan’s latest budget plan speak to a broader divide within the Republican Party.
Ryan as well as his fellow members of the House Republican leadership believe that, as the majority party (in the House, at least), it is incumbent upon them to produce a blueprint for how they would govern the country.
The other, more pragmatic (or cynical, depending on where you stand) wing of the party — the vast majority of political professionals are in this group — believes that there is no expectation on the part of the American people that Republicans provide any sweeping vision of what they would do if they are in power. By offering one, all Ryan is doing is giving Democrats something to shoot at, politically speaking. And that takes away from GOP attempts to keep the 2012 election spotlight shining brightly on President Obama.
What both sides in this Republican argument can agree on is that Democrats are likely to go at the new Ryan plan hard, and that if the party handles it as poorly as it did last year, it could be in serious trouble.
“The verdict depends on if Republicans can quickly define this plan among seniors before the Democrats define it for them,” said Ron Bonjean, a longtime Senate aide and now a Republican strategist. “Republicans had a turbulent practice run last year, so they should be well-prepared for the onslaught of negative attacks the other side will likely unleash.”
Well, good luck with all that. And I’ll admit it. I’m getting ready to enroll for Medicare. So the last thing I need or want is the Republicans mucking around with this program. Hey. I’m already growing my hair long so when I go before one of the Death Panels I’ll be viewed as Comrade Rob rather than Mr. Jewell. For us pensioners on fixed incomes, a little Socialism might go a long way. Just kiddin’. [Or not]
Better the GOP lawmakers fret over the sweet 16 — or is it Kentucky and the Round of 15?