But in my view the President has presented us with three choices: smoke and mirrors, tax hikes, or default. Republicans choose none of the above. I had hoped to do good; but I refuse to do harm.
When Democrats saw that we wouldn’t budge, they proposed one last offer to craft a deal. They asked us to join them in another Washington effort to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people. They offered us the opportunity to participate in the kind of deliberate deception of the public that has given public service such a bad name in recent years.
The Administration carefully leaked to the media, without any details, the idea that it was willing to go along with trillions of dollars of spending cuts. The lack of detail concealed the fact that the savings they were supposedly willing to support were at best smoke and mirrors.
The hope here was that budget gimmicks and deferred decision-making they actually support would have the appearance of serious belt-tightening. But the practical effect would have been at most about a couple of billion dollars in cuts up front with empty promises of more to follow.
And I’m proud of the fact that Republicans refused to play along.
We stood our ground. We know that what Americans need right now is for government to make job creation easier, not harder. And we said so. At a time when 14 million Americans are looking for work, we refused to support a tax hike. We supported jobs instead.
The truth is, the Democrats saw this debate as a unique opportunity to impose the type of tax hikes they want so badly but couldn’t pass even in a Democrat-controlled Senate last year.
So let’s not be fooled by a false choice.
This was not, in the end, a debate about whether taxes need to be raised. It was a debate about the kind of government we want. This was a debate between those who believe that Washington doesn’t have enough money to spend, and those, like me, who believe Washington has become too big, too expensive, and too burdensome, and that if we don’t cut back now, we never will.
We showed a willingness to sacrifice all along, even as we made it crystal clear that tax increases would not be a part of any agreement. Raising taxes is the last thing our economy needs.
It was their commitment to big government that stood in the way of a grand bargain.
It was their determination to freeze the policies of the past two years in place, permanently.
The American people don’t want that, and Republicans won’t be seduced into enabling it.
My only problem is this choosing “none of the above” business. If Republicans do nothing, the Obama administration will revisit the 14th Amendment option for raising the debt ceiling, setting off a Constitutional crisis (perhaps, in the long-run, a salutary one, but still). If Republicans do nothing, the Bush tax cuts will expire in 2012. If the Republicans do nothing, congressional Democrats will have the cover to do nothing themselves — they won’t be compelled to make any cuts, juked or otherwise.