One thing I've learned about President Obama - when he rails against "politics as usual", as he did in his redundant primetime speech to the country last night, you can rest assured that he will engage in politics as usual, relentlessly. The President had nothing new to say on the subject of the debt limit ceiling last night, but he made a campaign speech on television anyway. Obama carried on about how a "balanced approach" must be used in cutting spending and the deficit. He carried on about how revenue increases must be included as part of that balanced approach, as he has for the last couple months (prior to that the President was perfectly content to raise the debt limit with NO deficit reduction measures included). The President did his politics as usual routine, blaming Bush and Republicans for basically everything. Nothing new there either.
Here's the kicker. After going public for the nth time about how Republicans are intransigent for not raising revenues as part of the debt limit deal, it turns out that the White House had already endorsed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) plan, which included NO REVENUE INCREASES. This means that when the President was standing in front of the American people railing against the Republicans for not raising taxes, he had already backed a Democrat plan that didn't raise taxes. It doesn't get more "politics as usual" than that, or more dishonest.
Of further interest is, where did Harry Reid's plan come from ? He had no plan prior to the weekend. We've been waiting patiently for Democrats to propose a plan. None was forthcoming until now, at the the 11th hour. What happened ? Here's a strong clue from the Washington Post:
A Republican aide e-mails me: “The Speaker, Sen. Reid and Sen. McConnell all agreed on the general framework of a two-part plan. A short-term increase (with cuts greater than the increase), combined with a committee to find long-term savings before the rest of the increase would be considered. Sen. Reid took the bipartisan plan to the White House and the President said no.”
If this is accurate the president is playing with fire. By halting a bipartisan deal he imperils the country’s finances and can rightly be accused of putting partisanship above all else. The ONLY reason to reject a short-term, two-step deal embraced by both the House and Senate is to avoid another approval-killing face-off for President Obama before the election. Next to pulling troops out of Afghanistan to fit the election calendar, this is the most irresponsible and shameful move of his presidency.
After rejecting the bipartisan plan, Obama endorsed a similar Democrat plan a day or two later. Why ? For one, Democrats will get the credit for a Democrat plan, but more importantly, Sen. Reid changed ONE element of the plan - it will get us past the 2012 election, which seems to be of utmost (or sole) importance to this President.
Reid's plan calls for $2.7 trillion in spending reductions over 10 years, and as I said previously, it includes no revenue increases. Prior to endorsing Reid's plan, Obama said repeatedly that he'd veto any such Republican proposal that focused only on spending cuts. That has been where the debt limit negotiations broke down every time, over revenues. But when the Democrats propose a spending-only plan, Obama magically sees the light and agrees. Amazing what a difference a 'D' or an 'R' next to a Congressperson's name can make, isn't it ?
Listen to when Reid's announced his plan:
Reid’s statement [announcing his plan] follows an hour-long meeting he attended at the White House with President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Separately, Boehner told House Republicans on a conference call Sunday afternoon that he hoped to present a revised debt-ceiling bill on Monday, with a vote possible Wednesday.
The House GOP bill could be a short-term extension, which Reid said would be “a non-starter” in the Senate.
“Tonight, talks broke down over Republicans’ continued insistence on a short-term raise of the debt ceiling, which is something that President Obama, Leader Pelosi and I have been clear we would not support,” Reid said in his statement.
Except that Reid had supported the bipartisan plan, according to the Republican aide. Obama was the one who shot it down.
Translation - Obama told Reid and Pelosi he wanted a plan Democrats could take credit for, even though the ideas in the plan were all promoted previously by Republicans or were part of bipartisan negotiations. Obama wanted a plan that would get him through the 2012 elections, and it didn't matter if Obama and the Democrats had to reverse their position on everything they had said previously about tax increases. Obama even had the audacity to continue to rail against Republican anti-tax increase sentiments AFTER he had agreed to a spending-only plan that he could pretend came from the Democrats.
This President is all about politics as usual.
I haven't had time to analyze Reid's plan completely yet, but in the smoke and mirrors department, it looks pretty smoky and mirrory so far. $1 trillion of the "spending cuts" come from alleged savings on winding down the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which were winding down anyway. In other words, Reid's plan projects spending that was never going to happen, and then counts reductions in that imaginary spending as "savings". In fairness, the 2011 House Republican budget plan did the same thing.
Reid's plan also excludes entitlement reform, which means the biggest drivers of future spending are still out there driving. Both Reid's plan and House Majority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) plan kick spending cut decisions down the road, which isn't making Republicans, who are serious about spending cuts, very happy. Boehner may have a tough time getting his plan through the House. Some Democrats aren't very happy about the lack of tax increases in either plan, but I imagine Senate Democrats will largely follow the President's wishes regarding the Reid plan, albeit after some perfunctory grumbling.
Eight days to go...and the political beat goes on.
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