Saturday, January 19, 2013

House Republicans Blink Short Term

While it is no long term solution, apparently the House GOP members came to one useful short term agreement while conferencing in the Burwell Plantation Room at Kingsmill near Williamsburg:  they are set to vote on a three (3) month extension of the nation's debt ceiling to allow more time to hopefully reach a sane agreement that can clear both houses of Congress and the White House.  Whether the move will translate into a long term solution will remain to be seen.  Perhaps these members of the GOP are waking up to the reality that they have more to fear from moderates and independents than they do from the lunatics and saboteurs of the GOP base come 2014.  The Washington Post looks at the short term agreement.  These are article highlights:

WILLIAMSBURG - House Republicans backed away from their resolute position on the federal debt ceiling, announcing Friday that they will move next week to boost the government’s borrowing authority for three months.  The move is a retreat from the earlier insistence among some Republicans that any such debt increase would have to be matched by spending cuts of equal or greater size.

A vote on the proposal is expected Wednesday. If successful, the measure would postpone what was expected to be a major clash with the White House over government spending. The new strategy, crafted at a three-day retreat here that ended Friday, is one sign that Republicans, battered at the polls last November and saddled with low public approval, are looking for new ways to litigate their differences with President Obama and congressional Democrats over spending and deficits.

Under the bill, Republicans will seek to raise the debt limit to allow government borrowing through mid-April — long enough, they say, to give both chambers time to pass a budget for the next fiscal year. If either chamber failed to adopt a budget by April 15, that chamber’s members would then have their congressional pay withheld.

The GOP’s new path is an attempt to acknowledge the reality that the party controls only the House while preserving a tactical advantage that could force long-term reductions in spending, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told reporters Thursday.

An administration official said the White House viewed the move as a major concession by House Republicans.  Though Obama has in the past insisted on increases of sufficient length to calm financial markets and remove any doubt about the ability of the U.S. government to pay its bills, the official said the president would accept a “clean” short-term extension that did not include cuts.

Besides removing the immediate threat, a short-term debt ceiling increase would shift the debate to areas where Republicans believe they have more leverage.  Those include automatic spending cuts set to hit the military and domestic programs in early March, as well as the expiration of a funding mechanism keeping the government running at the end of that month.

Politically, it could also transfer attention from the troubles of the House GOP — which polls show Americans blame for Washington’s fiscal gridlock — to the Democratic Senate, which has not approved a budget resolution since Obama’s first year in office.

Republican aides said they were confident the three-month extension would pass the House, despite pledges from some fiscal hawks to use the debt ceiling fight to win concessions from Democrats on entitlement spending. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, which represents a bloc of the House’s most conservative members, issued a joint statement with three former chairmen of the group endorsing the idea. “The American people expect Washington to pass a budget and live by it,” they said.
 One area where huge savings could be achieved would be in moving the nation forward towards a private option or better yet a single payer health care system combined with the federal government negotiating costs with pharmaceutical manufacturers.  The USA spends the most per capita on health care of any advanced country and yet we have the least efficient delivery of services.  Only the truly wealthy have first class medical care.   Will the GOP consider this kind of rational approach to cost containment?  Of course not.  When they talk about reducing spending, they are talking out of both sides of their mouths.

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