The last few weeks of Republican shutdown strategy have been interesting, to say the least. Their first tack seemed to be blame Democrats for refusing to negotiate, and hope no one noticed the 80 House Republican signers of a letter urging GOP leaders to force a government shutdown – or Ted Cruz’s 21 hours of procedural grandstanding over Senate action he had already agreed not to block.
After being forced to confront this dismal strategic failure, GOP leadership rolled out a new plan: Stop talking about health care reform; attack Medicare and Social Security instead. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, first gave the game away in the Wall Street Journal. Rep. Fred Upton had a piece of his own in the Kalamazoo Gazette, although, asGongwer publisher John Lindstrom pointed out, “Mr. Upton’s op-ed is specifically vague enough to drive one whacky trying to assess if this is a grand gesture or just a pleasant piece of breakfast reading.”
The obtuseness of Rep. Upton’s language (and for that matter, Rep. Ryan’s) was surely intentional. Republicans have made it clear that they don’t want any kind of a deal – because negotiations of any kind require concessions, and any concessions will only enrage the Republican base and further the raw divisions in the GOP.
At a Republican presidential debate in August 2011, Fox News’ Bret Baier asked the candidates if any of them would accept a fiscal deal that included a 10-to-1 ratio of spending cuts to new revenues. All eight candidates said they would walk away from such a deal.
This kind of irresponsible behavior still animates the Republican Party, except in 2013 it carries real consequences for the country. Democrats have already come to the table and negotiated deals with Republicans –making repeated, extensive concessions in an effort to avoid the kind of paralysis and governing-by-hostage-crisis that Republicans love to blame on “Washington.”
The same cynical attitude Ryan displayed when he voted against the Simpson-Bowles plan, was on display earlier this month when Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Indiana, said to the Washington Examiner that “we’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
Now that attitude is shared by Republican leaders. And it’s guiding their actions as they recklessly plot to block any proposed by the president. Speaker Boehner even admitted recently on “This Week” that he had reached a deal with Sen. Harry Reid in July to cut spending levels far below what Democrats wanted.
Republicans had the deal they claimed they wanted. The problem has always been electing people who hate governing. It shouldn’t be surprising when they try to wreck government. It’s past time for Republicans to vote to follow through on the deal they already made, before any more damage is done to our economy.