Minority with extreme views affecting GOP image
Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 23:10
You know you’ve done something wrong when your efforts to “protect” Americans from Obamacare at all costs have actually resulted in (a) an increase in the law’s popularity; and (b) your party’s favorability sinking to the lowest on record.
From the commencement of the negotiations over government spending and debt, there was a considerable segment of the congressional Republican caucus who pledged that unless funding for the Affordable Care Act was excluded from any budget resolution, they would oppose providing funding for the nation’s new fiscal year. Republican leadership—who well understood the irrationality and implausibility of the entire effort—had little interest in countering this strategy. They, who fear their own leadership spots due to the rising sentiment of no-compromise conservatism, essentially surrendered what is typically conceived as contrived political strategy. I firmly believe that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and probably more than three-quarters of the Republican caucus (including, by the way, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, whose strict allegiance to fiscal conservatism earned him the moniker “Dr. No”), acknowledged that the strategy being pursued by the likes of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) lacked sagacity and would ultimately result in a more unfavorably viewed Republican Party.
The consequence of the Republican Party’s decision to pursue the aforementioned strategy has severely backfired. Coming into future negotiations with such unbelievably unrealistic goals (expecting President Barack Obama to sign a bill that would defund his signature legislation) has put the GOP up against the wall, and has left it with only two undesirable options: accepting “clean” resolutions that would accomplish none of their intended goals, or leave the government closed indefinitely and watch the U.S. government lead the world into a global recession. With the latter option likely (and hopefully) off the table, the former is unfortunately where we stand right now.
Currently, Senate leaders are negotiating a plan that would fund the government until mid-January, raise the debt limit until February 7, and repeal a little-heard-off reinsurance tax. It would stipulate that lawmakers discuss and debate a long-term budget, so that by February 7, a more comprehensive resolution can be reached. Unfortunately, this “deal” is essentially Sen. McConnell trying to escape a self-imposed debacle, and likely, an overall worse result for conservatives than what could have been attained had their initial expectations been more realistic. Had Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) led the talks for the Republican side, broad fiscal policy issues would have been the central focus. And they even may have been able to score a repeal of the medical device tax, something that had been previously repealed, on a bipartisan basis, in the House.
But, asking from the get-go to defund the President’s healthcare law would be roughly equivalent to Democrats asking for a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. A Republican president would have reacted in similar fashion in that regard.
The entire spectacle has indeed been harmful to the Republican Party. First, the Party’s overall favorability stands at 38 percent, dropping 10 percentage points in a month, and good for the record low since Gallup began including the question in its surveys of Americans in 1992. Furthermore, the emphasis on Obamacare has ironically made it more favorable; rising 7 percent according to the WSJ/NBC poll.
The Republican Party certainly overplayed its hand, and employed poor strategy, but Democrats and Obama also share some blame.
Obama’s continued reiteration of his refusal to compromise or engage in serious negotiations over the debt ceiling is unprecedented. Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and Bush the younger, all negotiated with their respective Congresses over terms to raise the debt ceiling. And in fact, as the American Enterprise Institute pointed out in the Wall Street Journal last week, 60 percent of debt limit increases that included other legislative items came from Democratic Congresses.
The Democrats’ refusal to compromise came to light when they flatly rejected a proposal from Sen. Susan Collins, a very moderate Republican from Maine, over the weekend, which merely delayed, not even postponed, the medical device tax for two years.
Given the left’s unwillingness to compromise, Republicans should maintain their leverage—the debt ceiling. They should extend it only on a temporary basis, requiring some compromise on Obama’s part. This cannot be a one-way capitulation on the GOP’s part.
Cooler heads will prevail and a deal will ultimately be reached, but the Democrats must be willing to surrender a no-negation position, the very same position they have accused the Republicans of possessing.