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Winning the FY 2012 In The Fall Budget Means Winning the FY 2011 Showdown Now

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's fiscal blueprint for 2012 and beyond has rightly been hailed as an enormously important development in the budget wars. If the country is indeed on the brink of a disastrous fiscal crisis, the Ryan proposal may be prove to be a decisive moment in modern American history, a turning point which marks the beginning of a long overdue responsibility among legislators. The various parts of the overhaul will, if they are all passed, total more than $6 trillion in savings over the next decade, and a balanced budget could be had by as early as 2015.

But these savings will only occur if the legislation passes, and every deletion from or amendment to the plan will diminish its effectiveness. Thus the Congressional GOP has to spend most of its energy between now and September making a case for the plan, and doing so from every forum available to it. The entire leadership has to buy into the plan if it has any hope of succeeding, and not just Speaker John Boehner, GOP Leader Eric Cantor and Whip Kevin McCarthy but also the leadership of the Senate, from Mitch McConnell down through the ranks. If the GOP on the Hill cannot rally around the plan, it is doomed from the start.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus should make the Ryan plan a focus of his stump speeches, and when GOP governors talk budget they should be endorsing the Medicaid block grants and every other aspect of the plan that increases the authority of the states to manage their own fiscal futures. The major GOP candidates for the presidency ought also to be extolling the virtues of the Ryan blueprint, pushing the public conversation back again and again the the critical necessity of action now and action along Ryan's broad front of initiatives. The plan is already defining the GOP's vision for the future of the country and the GOP's nominee will have to defend it throughout the summer and fall of 2012 so he or she ought to get started practicing doing so now. The temptation will be to trim and to distance, to save room for maneuver, but that temptation should be resisted. The Ryan budget of 2011 could be the equivalent of Kemp-Roth of 1978, the legislative proposal that sets the stage for the defeat of an exhausted and exhausting failed incumbent.

The critical part of success, however, comes immediately, in the budget battle for the balance of 2011. If the House GOP cannot win a preliminary round over a few billion and a handful of riders, how it the world can it be expected to persevere in the much more difficult argument over entitlement reform? If the Speaker cannot bring home defunding of Planned Parenthood and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a legislative bar to new job-killing Obamacare and carbon regs, the Dems will know he won't have the stomach for a fight in the fall.

The national stage has successfully been kept clear of diversions from the GOP presidential campaign, and the House freshmen have helped keep the old guard appropriators from giving away the store thus far. But only barely. Now the real struggle is joined and the president and harry Reid are testing the new Speaker to see if he has the stomach for the fight.

The president's faithful allies in the MSM and the lefty Beltway portals such as Politico and The Hill have already begun the pounding, ready to relay any outrageous quote from any source on the imagined impacts of the budget cuts. The president himself took to the podium Tuesday to display pique and a wonderfully convenient amnesia on the subject of "I won, you lost" thinking. The government looks like it is headed for a partial shutdown, and we can count on Chuck Schumer keeping up a steady stream of "extreme" tweets from any venue for as long as the show down continues.

The stakes are incredibly high, and they aren't just about the next six months, but about the next six years and beyond. Paul Ryan put forward an incredibly bold and politically courageous document and many electeds have already endorsed it and planed the flag of fiscal responsibility. If the House leadership now announces a "compromise" that sees the new majority thwarted in all of its major aims, we will know that the 2012 debate is over before it even began.

John Boehner gives no sign of being a push-over or of not understanding the stakes. It may take many days or even weeks to get to the sort of genuine compromise that reflects the country's vote in November, and the getting there will be hard and full of slander and outrageous distortions.

But if the GOP doesn't win on the 2011 CR, it is hard to imagine how it could win on the 2012 budget, and if it doesn't win on that showdown, it is hard to see how the public rewards its lack of political courage at the polls the following November.

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