Republican leaders in both the House and the newly conquered Senate appear committed to giving up the most important responsibility of the 114th Congress before it’s even begun. When Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy floated the idea of passing a long-term continuing resolution through a Democratic-controlled Senate, funding the government through most of 2015, it was rightly met with plenty of criticism on and off the Hill. Yet it still seems to be the plan.
The general theory — that Republicans should get budget fights out of the way to “show they can govern” — is bad: A “governing” agenda would probably involve bipartisan business priorities, not the conservative ideas Republicans need; the president and Democrats can undercut it anyway as easily as you can say “veto” and “filibuster,” etc.
That can’t be done if Congress passes a long-term budget. A long-term budget that the Democratic Senate helps approve also won’t reflect the kind of conservative fiscal priorities that the president might be coaxed into: more defense spending, for instance, or an end to certain corporate tax credits.
A Republican Congress has two years to set out an alternative agenda to the president’s, the kind of conservative platform that voters will send a president to the White House in 2016 to approve. Writing budgets will be only one part of that, but it’s a pretty important part.