The House GOP counter-offer this morning on the budget negotiations was rather thin gruel, even in light of conservatives having had their legs amputated (figuratively) by the abject surrender represented by the emerging Senate plan. If House Republicans were going to make any sort of stand, they ought to have at least avoided half-measures on the few issues on which they are still fighting.
In effect, the House now is fighting solely on the grounds of the medical-device tax (something on which Mitt Romney should have fought a year ago) and the Obamacare “exemption” for Congress and White House staffers. But on both issues, the House plan begins at points that should at worst be the end game for negotiations.
On the device tax, on which large majorities of both congressional chambers already are on record supporting full repeal, the House merely asks for a two-year delay. Why not ask for repeal, and then accept delay only grudgingly, as a result of negotiations, if at all?
On the Obamacare exemption, the House proposal would eliminate the exemption for members of Congress and some senior White House employees, but not for congressional staff. Why exempt the staff? The entire moral point is that nobody in government should be exempt from laws that apply to ordinary citizens. If you maintain the exemption for anybody, you lose the argument. (Sorry, staffers: It’s time to suck it up. You’re not special.)
House leadership still hasn’t learned that you can’t win a political battle when your message is garbled. Extreme garbling is inherent in every aspect of this counter-proposal. It’s a mess.