The Corner

The Left’s (Even Greater) Divide

On the homepage, I’ve taken a look at the disagreement brewing among House Republicans, and some influential conservative groups, over how best to confront Senate Democrats on spending, and how aggressively to push for significant cuts and policy changes:

House Republicans are increasingly at odds with one another over how to proceed on spending for the remainder of the fiscal year. Last week, 54 Republicans defied party leadership and voted against a three-week continuing resolution that included $6 billion in spending cuts. In so doing, they declared that they would no longer accept any more short-term, or “stopgap,” spending bills. The measure nonetheless passed, 271 to 158, but House Speaker John Boehner had to rely on the votes of 85 Democrats to get it through.

[. . .]

In a sense, the disagreement boils down to whether or not Republicans are willing to risk a government shutdown, and, perhaps more important, whether or not they think they can come out on top politically if a shutdown occurs. Party leaders have made clear that they are adamantly opposed to a shutdown — and they have been chided for it by some on the right — while many in the group who voted no last week have, with varying degrees of subtlety, suggested that a shutdown must be on the table.

Read the whole thing here.

Democrats are, predictably, quite pleased with this latest development — not least because it plays right into their fixed notion of the Tea Party as the GOP’s worst nightmare — but above all because it has shifted attention away from the even greater disarray that exists in their own ranks when it comes to reigning in federal spending.

On the House side, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) can’t seem to agree. Pelosi voted against both of the recently passed short-term continuing resolutions, while Hoyer supported them. On the first short-term CR, House Democrats split 104–85, and then 85–104 on the most recent short-term spending bill. In general, Democrats are trying to reconcile their inherent aversion to spending cuts of any kind with the American public’s clear desire for fiscal responsibly. This paradoxical struggle has produced some rather amusing results.

On the Senate side, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), when he wasn’t denouncing “mean-spirited” Republicans and their heartless contempt for “little boys and girls,” or lamenting the loss of cowboy poetry festivals, was introducing a spending bill — with a mere $4.7 billion in cuts — that was rejected by eleven Democrats. Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) said $4.7 billion (roughly equal to the daily deficit being run up by the United States) was “the limit” in terms of what Democrats could physically stand to cut.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) publicly slammed the Democratic plan, saying it “doesn’t go nearly far enough [and] utterly ignores our fiscal reality.” Manchin is facing a difficult reelection in 2012 and is taking that message home to his constituents, Politico reports:

Warning that “we cannot ignore the fiscal Titanic of our national debt and deficit,” the Democrat will stress his unwillingness to simply rubber-stamp his party’s positions in a Monday morning speech at the University of Charleston.

“There are some in Washington who believe we can simply ignore the fiscal peril we face as a nation,” he will say. “They are wrong.”

Other vulnerable Democrats up in 2012, like Sens. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) and Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) have spoken out as well against their own party. McCaskill said there are “way too many [Democrats] in denial” about the need to rein in spending. Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) said: “I don’t want to go closer to the middle; I want to go closer to the $50 billion range,” referring to the House-passed spending bill, HR 1, which includes $61 billion in spending cuts.

As a result, Democrats have been begging President Obama to get involved, but so far it is obvious that Obama has no intention of doing so. In the absence of a unified message on spending, Democrats have reverted to panic mode. Doing what comes naturally, many have called for tax increases to be included as part of a long-term budget deal.

And, of course, there is the ever-looming prospect of a government shutdown. Conservative groups Americans for Tax Reform and Heritage Action may be on different sides of the debate over short-term CRs, but they both seem to agree that Democrats would like to the see a government shutdown. Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham writes:

When the results of November became clear, the political strategists advised the Democrats to continue abdicating their responsibility. The political strategists – who were already looking toward the 2012 elections – wanted to make life difficult for the new Republican House. They knew forcing them to handle last year’s business would complicate their agenda and potentially force a government shutdown.

ATR president Grover Norquist tells NRO that “of course” Democrats want to shut the government down, because “it fits their narrative . . . they think they won in ’95, and they think they’ll win again this time.”

Indeed, Democrats and their unofficial allies in the mainstream media have been champing at the bit to blame a government shutdown on Republicans ever since Nov. 3, 2010. It has created a vicious feedback loop wherein Democratic lawmakers make a big fuss to the media about Republicans threatening to shut the government down, the media in turn ask GOP lawmakers “Why do you want to shut down the government?” and so on. Then Rachel Maddow, et. al., will play a series of (severely edited) clips of Republicans simply responding to these same questions, inevitably using the word “shutdown.” And there you have it: “Republicans won’t stop talking about a government shutdown.”

Republicans may be somewhat divided for the time being, but at least they are (mostly) united over policy when it comes to cutting spending. Thus far, the best options that Democrats have been able to muster — in the absence of a serious plan or guidance from the White House — are 1) do nothing, 2) raises taxes, and 3) shut the government down. Which party seems more dysfunctional?

Andrew Stiles — Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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