Sunday, July 31, 2011

Boehner Has Snatched Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

It's high time I air my thoughts about the debt ceiling debate. For the record, I am opposed to raising the debt ceiling. However, it clearly will be raised, and John Boehner- who was presented with an excellent opportunity to own the debate- has fumbled yet again (shades of the Continuing Resolution debate a few months ago).

The House of Representatives has sent two bills to the Senate on this issue. Both bills a) raise the debt ceiling, and b) exempt entitlement programs and military spending from sensible spending reductions. In other words, these bills compromise heavily with the Senate democrats. Nonetheless, the President and the Senate Majority Leader are insisting that Republicans won't compromise. The Democrats want a larger debt ceiling increase- large enough to ensure continued government spending and eliminate this debate until after the 2012 campaign. If done, this would eliminate the Tea Party's strongest position (and the President's weakest).

Boehner's actions- continued compromise with Reid, paltry attempts to appease the Tea Party caucus, lackluster speeches, etc.- are attempts to please all sides. Like Obama and Reid, he has failed to demonstrate leadership.

I have been saying for a week now, and will say again here: Boehner had a fantastic opportunity to own this debate, and blew it.

Here's what he should have done: Send the House home.

Tell the House GOP members to get on TV, and tell the truth: The House has sent two bills to the Senate. Both bills bend over backward to accomodate Democrats. Both bills raise the debt ceiling, and exempt military spending and entitlements. Keep the speeches short and spin-proof.

Then he should have put the ball in the Senate's court, by giving them three options: a) Pass Compromise Bill A; b) Pass Compromise Bill B; or c) continue to complain and let the cards fall. He should have told the American people that we have compromised as much as humanly possible, and it's time for the Democrats to do the same.

If Boehner had done this, he would have cemented his position as Speaker in the next Congress; brought leadership to this debate; obviated the Democrats' "compromise" meme; paved the way for a real budget debate; and put us a step closer to cementing Obama's defeat in 2012.

Instead, Boehner did what he does best: He snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

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