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The House GOP Loses Its Way

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

My pal Dr. Eric Hunter at the National Center for Voice and Speech at the University of Utah reminds me that April 16 is World Voice Day.

This is an appropriate occasion to urge the president to save his overworked and increasingly ineffective vocal chords and to implore the House GOP leadership to begin to use theirs.

Whatever the merits, the budget deal negotiated by the president with Harry Reid and John Boehner last week has been branded a giant exercise in Beltway subterfuge, accomplishing next to nothing in terms of spending control and providing yet again an opportunity for various well-heeled lobbyists and deeply connected special interests to work the Beltway's "third party" of appropriators for a special round of legislative winks and nudges.

What was initially trumpeted as a big win for the Speaker began to shrink under close scrutiny so that Friday's triumph became Monday's draw and Thursday's defeat. Whatever the vote on the floor --and unhappy freshmen are being "whipped" hard even though this vote will create enormous political hardship for many of them-- the Tea Party rallies this weekend will be trashing the deal which the Congressional Budget Office calculates will lower the spending for FY 2011 by a mere $352 million --not billion, but million-- dollars.

The worst part of this was not the low impact on the actual deficit or the loss of every rider of importance.

The worst part was the apparent intent to mislead the conservative base about what had been accomplished, an astonishing choice in the age of new media where the Tea parties are wired through and the world of talk radio nets up the conservative activists and undecided center every day all day.

Only Beltway sharpies are buying what Beltway sharpies are selling --they and the Manhattan-Beltway media elite which appears about as competent as a cement slab when it comes to digging out details of deals the president wants kept obscure.

The good news is that the Speaker gets a do-over immediately with the debt ceiling negotiations. Hopefully he will bring in some new communications advisors and keep serious conservatives at his side rather than just the old guard appropriators who have led him into this trap where the Dems are winning and the conservatives are furious with their leadership and its refusal to fight for the "pledge" that was so prominently featured in the fall.

The sense of separation between the Beltway GOP and the rest of the party, and especially the gap between how the governors are leading and the way the House leadership is negotiating bodes horrible for the re-election efforts of dozens if not scores of GOPers. This stuff defines a member. It sticks. Some may hope to surf another wave, but waves come only infrequently and sometimes in the opposite direction.

When former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty denounced the budget deal on Wednesday, that was the clearest signal of all of what the national party thinks of the half-dozen or so House leaders who did the deal.

There is time for the House leadership to change course, tactics and results, but it is rapidly running out. Start with the "strategists" who came up with "hide the ball" approach. Start using the platforms. Start using the voice.

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