Is he kidding?
After posturing about how much the budget deal, or at least the backroom process that produced it, “stinks,” the apparent next House Speaker, Paul Ryan, has announced that he will support this abomination because “members” have expressed “a desire to wipe the slate clean, put in place a process that builds trust, and start focusing on big ideas.”
What a crock. Imagine a prosecutor who has a slam-dunk case against a bank robber. What would people say if he decided to dismiss the charges and let the robber keep the stolen treasure, because, well, doing his job is really hard, trials can be such a pain, so it’s just easier to wipe the slate clean.
Don’t get me wrong. I never believed Ryan’s pretensions of opposition. The budget deal is exactly the sort of Washington “fix” he has gone along with time and time again over the years; he has indicated he is going to retain Boehner staffers (i.e., the Speaker’s office that cut the deal); and much of the deal involves one of his own machinations – a diversion of Social Security retirement funds to camouflage the insolvency and unsustainability of the Social Security disability program. As I said yesterday, Ryan is all for this awful deal. He just doesn’t want his fingerprints on it – that is what Boehner is for.
But one of the worst aspects of the deal is that by “wiping the slate clean” what the GOP is actually doing is giving Obama a blank check and forfeiting any leverage their control over spending would have given them in the many battles to come with Obama over the next 15 months. I don’t know what “big ideas” Ryan is planning to “focus” on, but the framers did not think there was any bigger idea than separation-of-powers – in particular, Congress using its power of the purse to rein in executive maladministration.
As I also pointed out yesterday, Republicans have made aggressive, unambiguous promises that, if the public trusted them with control of the House, they would use the House’s constitutional powers to cut spending and reduce the size of government. Yet, their method of “wiping the slate clean” is to increase out-of-control spending dramatically, to undo the only (mild) discipline that operated to reduce spending, and, for good measure, to reauthorize the Ex-Im bank – the only sliver of government they had succeeded in eliminating.
There is a good chance that Ryan could scuttle this awful budget deal by opposing it. He is instead supporting it. His mock outrage over how much it stinks is just more of the “Surrender … Then Play-Fight” theater by which Republicans feign opposition to the ruinous policies they enable.
To demonstrate real leadership would be to oppose this deal. Those who support it are the problem, not the solution. And those who rationalize accepting the intolerable in order to “wipe the slate clean” should not expect to be taken seriously.