Saturday, September 28, 2013

More on the Republican Ransom Note

Obviously we won't know all the details of Republican demands on the debt ceiling until the bill is formally introduced.  That is expected to happen around Friday.  But I don't see how they can come up with one that does all they want, let alone entitlement reform, in one week or less.

The initial ransom note seems to acknowledge as much, at least on tax reform, where it simply says "Tax reform instructions" (emphasis mine) and says that it should be similar to the Ryan Plan and give fast track authority.  So presumably it will mandate setting up some sort of committee to come up with a plan and giving the plan fast track, i.e., it must be voted up or down without changes.  Of course, if it gets voted down, the whole thing achieves nothing.  Some parts of the list no doubt can be achieved simply by a single sentence saying that a certain section of the U.S. Code is repealed.  And some liked "included pretty much every jobs bill we have passed this year and last Congress" can be done quickly, simply by appending the text of the bill.  But what about others?  "Regulatory reform."  "Regulatory process reform."  "Consent decree reform."  "Tort reform."  Can a whole bill doing all these things in any meaningful way, let alone an entitlement reform bill, be drawn up in less than a week?  Or are these also just symbolic statements in favor of these provisions, calls for a committee to come up with a plan to send to the House floor?  And if so, why couldn't the house just draw up these things and send them to the floor on its own?  No doubt because drawing them up would take a lot of time and work, and they would quite likely fail, if not in the House, then in the Senate.  But how would passing a vague resolution in favor of these things change any of those problems?  And as for entitlement reform, the thought that you could draw up such a bill by Friday, or even by October 17 is sheer madness.  And if by some miracle a meaningful proposal does come to the floor, suddenly any Representative who votes for it will have less to fear from a Tea Party primary challenge from the right than a Democratic general election challenge from the left.

One thing I will say, though, is that these proposals make a mockery of any procedural objections Republicans once raised to Obamacare.  That major changes should not be pressed by slender majorities? Well, this is not just one major change, but many, and it is pressed, not by a party with not-so-slender majorities in both houses and the President, but by a one with a slender and shrunken majority in one house, a minority in the other, and a President it hates with a passion.  That it was drawn up in secret?  It was a whole lot more open that the process to draw up the present bill that no one has seen.  That it was passed too hastily?  Try one year, versus a couple of weeks.  That it was hundreds of pages.  I have no idea what length the debt ceiling bill will be, but any of its proposed "reforms" should take up plenty of paper and ink. That it was forced over?  Don't even get me started.

I guess we will learn more details in the near future.

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