I bet a lot of you will disagree, but I think that, on the whole, the GOP is right not to choose this particular hill to die on. Kicking the can down the road may not usually be such a hot idea, but it buys time here and creates at least a sense of being willing to negotiate and compromise on their part.
They were not going to win this battle in any case; as Krauthammer points out, their position post-November 2012 is not strong:
In reality, Republicans have a broad consensus on what they believe, where they want to go and the program to get them there. But they don’t have the power. What divides Republicans today is a straightforward tactical question: Can you govern from one house of Congress? Should you even try?
Can you shrink government, restrain spending, bring a modicum of fiscal sanity to the country when the president and a blocking Senate have no intention of doing so?
One faction feels committed to try. It wishes to carry out its small-government electoral promises and will cast no vote inconsistent with that philosophy. These are the House Republicans who voted no on the “fiscal cliff” deal because it raised taxes without touching spending. Indeed, it increased spending with its crazy-quilt crony-capitalist tax ”credits” — for wind power and other indulgences.
They were willing to risk the fiscal cliff. Today they are willing to risk a breach of the debt ceiling and even a government shutdown rather than collaborate with Obama’s tax-and-spend second-term agenda.
The other view is that you cannot govern from the House. The reason Ryan and John Boehner finally voted yes on the lousy fiscal-cliff deal is that by then there was nowhere else to go. Republicans could not afford to bear the blame (however unfair) for a $4.5 trillion across-the-board tax hike and a Pentagon hollowed out by sequester…
The more prudent course would be to find some offer that cannot be refused, a short-term trade-off utterly unassailable and straightforward. For example, offer to extend the debt ceiling through, say, May 1, in exchange for the Senate delivering a budget by that date — after four years of lawlessly refusing to produce one.
Not much. But it would (a) highlight the Democrats’ fiscal recklessness, (b) force Senate Democrats to make public their fiscal choices and (c) keep the debt ceiling alive as an ongoing pressure point for future incremental demands.
Republicans should develop a list of such conditions — some symbolic, some substantive — in return for sequential, short-term raising of the debt ceiling. But the key is: Go small and simple. Forget about forcing tax reform or entitlement cuts or anything major. If Obama wants to recklessly expand government, well, as he says, he won the election.
Republicans should simply block what they can. Further tax hikes, for example. The general rule is: From a single house of Congress you can resist but you cannot impose.
Aren’t you failing the country, say the insurgents? Answer: The country chose Obama. He gets four years.
Want to save the Republic? Win the next election.
Some will call that spineless surrender, typical RINO garbage, and the very reason they hate the GOP. I call it realistic, although I understand those arguments, and hold no brief for most of the Republicans in Congress now. But the most important fight—the one for the hearts and minds of the American people—is going to have to be waged in the institutions about which we’ve spoken: education, media, pop culture. And the bravado of brinksmanship is not going to do a thing for the larger cause.
I have excerpted at length from Krauthammer’s piece because I think it’s easy to misunderstand his argument if you only read part of it. But let me also add that he gives a historic example: Gingrich’s battle with Clinton, which Gingrich lost. It wasn’t lost because Gingrich was a RINO, or because he lacked spine, either. Here’s a summary of what happened back then, when Clinton snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Now, fire away.
[NOTE: I would add that the House could, and probably should, choose a couple of important fiscal (or other) issues about which to pass bills—bills they know will be defeated in the Senate and/or vetoed—just to go on record as to what they would do if they had more power. As a statement of intent. They can’t do too much of this or they will be accused of frivolously wasting time on bills that will go nowhere, however. But one or two might be good, I think.]