The Speaker Heard The People and His Caucus. Now Onto the Strategy and Negotiating...

“Stand Up and Defund It or Sit Down and Do Nothing, Sort Of” was the title when I finished this diary in the wee hours last night. But upon reading that the House will include defunding in the CR today, I had to change it. Yet I still have a few qualms with their reported strategy that are outlined below.

No matter what strategy one favors going into the CR and debt ceiling debates, the House had a GOP Leadership gap and surely didn’t have a strategy to get to 218 votes for any plan. That was the problem in a nutshell until today when they announced their new plan. So thank you GOP leadership for coalescing around the wishes of your base and Party.

Here is the new plan as I understand it after reading multiple sources:

CR Plan: The House will vote on a continuing resolution that will keep spending at sequester levels until Dec. 15 and defund Obamacare. If this fails in the Senate, and they send it back with the defund provision eliminated, then the House may pass a clean CR and try to defund it with the debt ceiling.

Debt-Ceiling Plan: The debt-limit plan is expected to extend borrowing authority for one year and delay implementation of O’care for the same amount of time. This doesn’t seem like a firm plan since it’s contingent on the CR outcome .

Personally I think the president may blink if the House gave him a clean debt ceiling raise in return for defunding it. The Bill is a disaster and he knows it. It would give him the out he needs kind of like the Syria solution that fell into his lap by accident.

But if you read the transcript of his so-called economic speech yesterday, in which he said he’s been focused on the economy still and will be to the end of his term, we can gleam a few clues as to what might work for the GOP. On a side note, he assured us that he’s dealt with Syria and it’s in the rearview mirror and it’s time to more forward or pivot to the economy…again:

I want to be clear though that, even as we’ve dealt with the situation in Syria, we’ve continued to focus on my number one priority since the day I took office, making sure we recover from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, and rebuilding our economy so it works for everybody who’s willing to work hard, so that everybody who is willing to take responsibility for their lives has a chance to get ahead.

So the GOP has a few choices:

  • Defund it with the CR or debt ceiling
  • Delay it
  • Trade the sequester cuts for defunding Obamacare

There were three main themes in the president’s speech:

1. He wants to keep taxing and spending and still thinks government is the answer to the slumping economic riddle. Nothing new here. Yet he doesn’t think his policies are to blame, even though he contradicted himself, my bold emphasis:

Because even though our businesses are creating new jobs and have broken record profits, the top 1 percent of Americans took home 20 percent of the nation’s income last year, while the average worker isn’t seeing a raise at all. (I thought his plans were working for the middle class or so he keeps telling us.)

The only way to make further, long-term progress on deficit reduction that doesn’t slow growth is with a balanced plan that includes closing tax loopholes that benefit corporations and the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class. It’s the only way to do it.

2. He hates the sequester as much as we hate Obamacare and is still blaming the Republican’s when we all know he signed it into law, instead of vetoing it or even threatening to, a favorite tactic of his, as well as “the children”:

And although ultimately our success will depend on all the innovation and hard work of our private sector — all that grit and resilience of the American people — government is going to have a critical role in making sure we have education system that prepares our children and our workers for a global economy. The budget Congress passes will determine whether we can hire more workers to upgrade our transportation and communications networks, or fund the kinds of research and development that have always kept America on the cutting edge.

(Sorry to interrupt but I wasn’t aware that the federal government built roads or put in more bandwidth for the internet…funding for roads yes but putting a bulldozer on the ground or funding and laying fiber, not so much)

But that’s not what is being proposed by the Republican budgets. Instead of making necessary changes with a scalpel, so far at least, Republicans have chosen to leave in place the so-called sequester cuts that have cost jobs, harmed growth, are hurting our military readiness. (As usual, he sees no good reason to adhere to the law he signed if he doesn’t like it !!!) 

Our economy’s not growing as fast as it should, and we’re not creating as many jobs as we should because the sequester’s in place.

That’s not my opinion. That’s the opinion of independent economists. The sequester makes it harder to do what’s required, to boost wages for American workers. The economy is still slack. (And the correlation to government spending cuts and wages is exactly what?)

So, if Republicans want the economy to grow faster, create more jobs faster, they should want to get rid of it. It’s irresponsible to keep it in place.

3. Lastly, he still touts O’care as beneficial, does not believe it’s a drag on the economy and welcomes ideas from the Republicans, even going to far as daring them to come up with a plan other than repeal, which as of today, the GOP did:

A lot of the, you know, horror stories that were predicted about how this was going to shoot rates way up and there were going to be death panels and all that stuff, none of that stuff’s happened. And in two weeks, the Affordable Care Act is going to help millions of more people. And there’s no serious evidence that the law, which has helped to keep down the rise in health care costs to their lowest level in 50 years, is holding back economic growth. (So there’s some evidence, it’s just not serious.)

So repealing the Affordable Care Act, making sure that 30 million people don’t get health insurance and people with pre-existing conditions continue to be locked out of the health insurance market, that’s not an agenda for economic growth. You’re not going to meet an economist who says that that’s the number-one priority in terms of boosting growth and jobs in this country, at least not a serious economist. (How does getting healthcare expand the economy for people? Sure the healthcare providers benefit but the people that have to pay for it?) 

And I understand, I will never convince some Republicans about the merits of Obamacare. I understand that. And I’m more than willing to work with them where they’ve got specific suggestions that they can show will make our health care system work better. Remember, initially this was like repeal and replace, and the replace thing has kind of gone off to the wayside. Now it’s just repeal.

Before taking a vote on the CR or debt ceiling, the GOP needs to articulate counter-arguments to Obama’s three themes I just listed. Just use the for every dollar the government spends, is a dollar taken out of the private sector example. He said so himself, that raising taxes during a economic slump will hurt the economy. He spent $1.2T on the stimulus to create jobs and improve the infrastructure; why do we need to spend more if it was so successful?

Which dovetails into what is his plan to replace the sequester, when he himself constantly states he wants to trim the deficit? I guarantee he doesn’t have one, doesn’t want one, and won’t be able to answer these questions. Ask him exactly which federal government workers actually pave roads and upgrade communications networks, well besides the NSA?

And didn’t they just fix the student loan rate issue? Ask him if he thinks the federal government should just take over the college system and offer free college to everyone. And lastly, if the ACA is so great, why do the unions want it repealed? Why did he give out waivers to some, like Congress and staffers, and not to all? Would he agree to a delay until the HHS hub security issues are fixed?

Until the GOP gets answers from the president on what his goals are, they can hardly be expected to formulate a budget that will pass him and his Senate. We know he won’t tell the whole truth but get him on record for as many answers as possible throughout the fiscal debates.

Back to the GOP’s choices that can get to 218 votes in the House, taking into consideration their announcement today.

DEFUND IT: Yesterday, Reid added a new wrinkle, stating that said the Senate would not act on the shutdown crisis until the House does. This actually plays right into the defund it plan with the CR strategy that GOP announced today. Send it over and insist the Senate takes a vote on it.

The GOP must have a plan to replace O’care and now they do. It was ridiculous to think that they can defund it without laying out the groundwork for their replacement plan.

But the House leaders seemed too quick to announce a surrender and still pass a clean CR when the Senate removes the defund language. This is yet another pre-cave while announcing the onus is on Senate Republicans. But it’s still not good negotiating 101 to announce your acceptance plan, albeit stating they’d then tie it to the debt-ceiling.

What I do like is keeping the sequester cuts in place and the Dec. 15 funding date, both of which can be used in the negotiation process if the Senate D’s and the president engage.

DELAY IT: A delay tied to the debt-ceiling is a horrible option since it only delays the inevitable while more regulations and waivers are written. A delay will only mask the full effects of the law and the increased public outcry as reality sets in. The GOP hasn’t explained what will be different in a year from now and it definitely won’t help them win elections in 2014 or 2016, but it will help Democrats keep their seats. If they can’t defund it, don’t delay it. We’re just two weeks away from the grand opening of Obamacare. Let everyone witness the train wreck happen in real-time.

Once the chaos and confusion begins, then the GOP will have the leverage it needs to defund it. Now, more insurers are pulling out of the state set up exchanges, which are mostly in states with Democratic governors. And does anyone really believe the fed exchanges for the other 33 states will go smoothly, if they open at all?   

TRADE THE SEQUESTER CUTS FOR DEFUNDING OBAMACARE: I know this sounds crazy, but again, if you read his speech remarks and recall all the times the Democrats have railed against it, this may be the best bargaining chip. They absolutely hate the sequester cuts that they all agreed to in the BCA. According to the CBO, the sequester will cut $1.1T over the next 8 years. O’care will cost about $1.8T over the next 10 years. Of course the costs of these entitlement programs always soar. It was sold at $974B and then the CBO stated it would cost $1.76T. Ouch,  the price went up even before implementation, yet the GOP doesn’t harp on this fact.

The House could pass a CR bill (minus the stimulus baseline) that reinstates the sequester cuts, and defunds O’care. But the House can’t blink on this; full defund in exchange for turning off the sequester cuts or nothing. There can be no discussion of a delay with this option.

The GOP needs to negotiate from a position of strength which it doesn’t have right now. Yes they have the power of the purse but face it, they’ll get the blame for a shut-down rightly so or not. Plus Obama seems to prefer a shut down to berate them and try to win the House in 2014. And due to the lack of leadership with the will to hold the line, they will inevitably blink and any leverage will be lost.

The GOP needs a Plan B when the Senate strips the O’care defunding from the CR. They can also expect the Senate to strip out the sequester cuts.

My Plan B could very well be the answer: trade the sequester cuts for defunding O’care and a one-year CR though the 2014 fiscal year. If the Senate still balks, offer a clean debt-ceiling for defunding, not delaying, before finalizing a CR deal. 

Plan C is do a 30 day clean CR, perpetually until the Senate and president are willing to negotiate in good faith. And only increase the debt limit to cover the principle and interest on the debt as well as any other mandatory payments like pensions and of course the military for a year. This is the take it or leave it plan when the Democrats are screaming that the GOP is shutting down the government. It will not be so and it will not effect the full faith of the U.S. government.

Finally, if all efforts fail, and the GOP does fold under pressure, then at least do this: get the IRS out of O’care other than simply receiving the tax payments AND only pass a clean debt ceiling that eliminates  ALL O’care waivers. Yes, those for Congress, their staffers, the president, everyone and anyone who has gotten a waiver!

If you can’t defund it, then bring it on full force for everyone. Don’t delay it and don’t blink on this demand.  Let us all suffer together and bring true meaning to the words, we’re all in this together!