WASHINGTON — A pair of House Republicans have a new bill that would spare the military from sequestration by cutting the Social Security benefits of many Americans who already experience painful federal budget cuts.
Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) are introducing the Provide for the Common Defense Act on Tuesday. The legislation would cancel out the next two years of sequestration cuts for the Pentagon by putting a heavier burden on senior citizens and federal workers.
Specifically, the plan would change the way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated for Social Security, using a measurement called “chained CPI.” The result would be less money in the pockets of beneficiaries. It would also increase federal employee retirement contributions and means-test Medicare premiums. Critics of means-testing argue that such a change would undermine the popularity of the program, turning it into welfare for lower-income Americans.
“Washington has a spending problem, but incessantly and mindlessly cutting national security will not get us out of our fiscal mess,” said Lamborn in a statement. “President Obama must realize that out-of-control entitlement spending is drowning our country in debt. Our bill cancels national security sequestration for two years by enacting a few Obama-endorsed reforms that will actually produce over $300 billion in savings over ten years. Two-thirds of the savings will go toward debt reduction.”
Greg Sargent makes an interesting argument that this last minute cave-in by the House Tea Party cavemen may actually make it possible for John Boehner to marginalize the crazies enough that they won’t be able to use the debt ceiling as an extortion tool any more: Did Barack Obama Do John Boehner a Big Favor?
It’s worth asking whether, by holding the line until Republicans had no choice but to capitulate on the debt limit, Barack Obama actually did John Boehner a long term favor of sorts.
Most observers think John Boehner genuinely wants to get to some kind of long term budget deal. If true, he plainly has been hampered by pressure from the right not to even enter into negotiations that risk resulting in a compromise Tea Partyers would find unacceptable. Before yesterday’s outcome, conservatives explicitly were insisting that GOP leaders must not enter into any talks unless they could wield the threat of harm to the country to get something for nothing. Remember, Ted Cruz angered fellow Republicans when he refused to enter into normal budget talks unless Dems agreed in advance not to make raising the debt ceiling even tangentially related to the talks, effectively reserving it as an extortion tool later.
Cruz, of course, went on to demand that the GOP use extortion tactics to force Dems to agree to unwind Obamacare. GOP leaders tried that with a government shutdown, and then with the debt ceiling, and the rest is history.
Now that Dems have confirmed they will not give up anything to Republicans under such conditions, it’s conceivable this could end up giving Boehner a way to stave off the inevitable demands that he drag the country through the same again. He can rightly point to precedent. That won’t make conservatives any happier. But it could help mobilize GOP elites and moderates who balked at the party’s embrace of extortion tactics — and will probably be even more wary of them during the 2014 elections - to give even less ground to them next time.
My more cynical take: if GOP moderates were really going to pull the Republican Party back from the brink of total weirdness, they would have done it a long time ago. All this insanity didn’t just start last month, after all.
I’m not convinced there’s enough rationality left in the right wing hive mind to guarantee there won’t be any more episodes like this (no matter how self-destructive), or that John Boehner won’t continue to pander to the Tea Creatures, but I’ll be pleasantly surprised if either turns out to be the case.
You probably already know that House Republicans messed around all day and then couldn’t agree on anything enough to call a vote, so we’re one day closer to a default on the US debt. But did you know one of the main sticking points for the Tea Party fanatics driving this crazy train is… birth control?
Conservative House members expressed a desire Tuesday to fund the government only until Dec. 15 in order to force a fight over ObamaCare’s birth control mandate.
Members of the House GOP discussed a proposal that would reopen the government through mid-December, just weeks before a provision of the mandate takes effect on Jan. 1 for religiously affiliated groups.
Republicans seemed adrift after canceling a vote on a debt-limit plan Tuesday night.
But members of the party signaled concerns about letting the Jan. 1 date pass without waging a battle over contraception.
“It boils down to conscience protections that basically become compromised on the first of January, and that’s bothersome to a lot of people,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
If House Republicans want to avoid the appearance that they’re running an extortion racket, maybe it would it would be a good idea to refrain from talking like Mafiosi.
Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) told reporters Tuesday that part of the House Republican calculus in its plan to re-open the government and raise the debt limit was trying to leverage the Thursday default deadline to their advantage in their back-and-forth with the Senate.
“We want to make a deal that they can’t refuse, and we’re running out of time,” Fleming said after a two-hour GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning. “Timing is very important here. They’re going to be more motivated to take this up. Otherwise, they miss the Thursday deadline.”
The new Washington Post-ABC News poll provides more astonishing evidence of exactly how self-destructive the House Republicans’ shutdown games have been, as an amazing 74 percent of Americans disapprove of these clowns.
And more than that, the poll shows that there’s a kind of ideological war going on within the Republican Party, as the remaining sane members are repelled by the tactics of the Tea Party crackpots.
An ideological split within the GOP accounts for the soft ratings for Republicans among their own party members. Some 63 percent of Republicans who describe themselves as “very conservative” approve of their members of Congress, using two weeks of combined polls. But approval falls below half among Republicans who are just “somewhat conservative,” with 48 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving.
The few Republicans who identify as moderate or liberal disapprove on balance by 53 percent to 42 percent approval of their own party, using combined data from two weeks of interviews.
How crazy are House Republicans? This crazy:
[Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.)] suggested the House should reject an unfavorable agreement from the Senate, even if it resulted in a debt default that severely damaged the economy.
“We have to make a decision that’s right long-term for the United States, and what may be distasteful, unpleasant and not appropriate in the short run may be something that has to be done,” he said.
Griffith, a former majority leader of the Virginia House of Delegates, cited as an example the American Revolution.
“I will remind you that this group of renegades that decided that they wanted to break from the crown in 1776 did great damage to the economy of the colonies,” Griffith said. “They created the greatest nation and the best form of government, but they did damage to the economy in the short run.”
As we pass through the half-way mark of Day Five in the federal shutdown, polls continuing to show that the GOP is taking the blame for this shutdown and the public strongly opposes a shutdown over the Affordable Care Act. Yet the GOP continues to insist that it simply wishes to “negotiate,” declaring such in words that wouldn’t sound out of place in a video message from Al-Qaeda:
After the House’s latest partial spending measure passed Saturday, House Republican leadership asserted that the government shutdown could end if President Obama came to the negotiating table.
“This can all end,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters. “All the president has to do is sit down, along with Senate Democrats.”
“We never wanted a shutdown,” he added. “That’s why we’ve fully funded the government.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) reiterated that House GOP leadership would not bring the Senate spending bill to the floor.
“We have committed to fund the areas of government that we all agreed on, which is more areas than not. We’re trying to ease the plan here. They’re not joining us,” Cantor said. “We’re saying we’ve got a lot that we have in common. I think most Americans will not tolerate that this president has continued to say he’s not going to talk.”
In an interview with the AP released Saturday, Obama repeated that he would be willing to work with House Republicans on long-term government spending, but only after they pass the Senate bill to re-open the government and raise the federal debt ceiling.