Democrats and much of the DC chattering class have described House Republicans as the volatile, wild-eyed fanatics who are recklessly standing in the way of a responsible debt deal -- with a requisite dose of "shared sacrifice," of course. NRO's Robert Costa and Andrew Stiles have produced a thorough report on the status and collective mindset of the House GOP rank-and-file, and it seems Boehner's crew is....largely calm, determined, and rational:
Leaving the meeting, House Republicans were mostly calm and supportive of their leadership, happily munching bagels and sipping coffee. The conference, many said, was in relatively good spirits, hopeful that Boehner and Cantor would be able to craft a favorable agreement. A senior House GOP aide tells us that the leaders went into the meeting with an open mind, looking both to recap the negotiations and to rally members to get informed and be enthusiastic for next week’s debate, when the clamor for a deal will reach a fever pitch in the mainstream press.
...Most members are open to raising the debt limit, aides say — as long as they can go back to their districts with, as one staffer puts it, “concrete, heavy blocks of legislation.” Come late July, another aide explains, Republicans want to be able to tell their constituents that they did all they could to enact conservative reforms in a divided government. On Capitol Hill, at least, that pressure appears to be as strong as the pressure for Boehner and Obama to cut a deal.
House Republicans' coming Balanced Budget Amendment gambits (a detailed description of which appears in the story linked above) and their proposed $2.4 Trillion borrowing-hike/spending-cut swap happen to be both good policy and good politics. Each plan locks in real spending cuts, without tax increases, in exchange for hiking our borrowing limit -- Boehner's position from the beginning. These various proposals (assuming several of them pass) volley the ball back into Democrats' court. If Senate Democrats and/or the White House want to defeat House-passed plans, that's their business -- but they can't carp that Republicans are "doing nothing." And since the president is apparently an expert on reading -- and misreading -- polls, he might want to check the polling on Balanced Budget Amendments. Public support stands at a meager 72 percent.
In summary, it appears that House Republicans understand the gravity of risking default, and are willing to play ball -- but are working diligently to extract the best possible deal for American taxpayers before voting en masse to raise the debt limit. In the process, they're calling the president's bluff, as Charles Krauthammer and Rich Lowry have urged:
If a bipartisan deal doesn’t come together quickly, House Republicans at the very least should pass a 90-day extension and force President Obama to make good on his “bluff.” More ambitiously, they should pass a debt-limit increase with spending cuts equal to or greater than the increase in the debt ceiling. They could draw on the $6 trillion in cuts over the next ten years that they’ve already passed in the Ryan budget, or the roughly $1.4 trillion in cuts currently on the table in the White House talks.
Then they can wait for a serious counteroffer. The president still needs a deal, both to get some cover for his years-long spending binge and to signal to the markets that Washington can trim the debt. But if House Republicans continue to have nothing, the game may simply fall into his lap.
It looks like the House GOP will trek down Lowry's "more ambitious" path. And why not? At the very least, this may finally force Democrats to put forth, as Lowry says, a serious counteroffer. Which would require details. The kind of details the president has explicitly said he's not interested in providing, which is a neat trick: He gets to assert that he's willing to buck his party and make "hard choices," without having to reveal what any of those choices may be. A serious counteroffer cannot be quite so vague.
One final point on
tax hikes revenue enhancements: In addition to Marco Rubio's pitch-perfect explanation of why soaking the rich (a) doesn't come close to solving the problem (Who cares? "Fairness!"), and (b) stifles the very economic growth that holds the key to recovery, former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin makes a point that is brilliant in its simplicity:
President Obama will only talk about raising taxes when revenues are the furthest from the issue at hand. Raising taxes will not solve the problem, and President Obama has already proven it. His 2012 budget contained all the tax increases his imagination could muster. The result? A debt spiral and predictable crisis inside of one decade.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography