In the Beltway, one either toes the status quo line or is responsible for all of Congress’ woes. The current target for this blame is, of course, the Tea Party.
According to Ezra Klein, fiscal conservatives in the House are forcing House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) into making unreasonable promises to them about Obamacare and other areas of public policy. Klein claims the Speaker is forced into these series of lies because House conservatives are extreme. One example of this, says Klein, is how the Speaker has promised to use the debt ceiling to negotiate an Obamacare delay instead of the 2014 budget:
Trading a government shutdown for a debt-ceiling breach is like trading the flu for septic shock. And Boehner knows it. Republicans will effectively be going to the White House and saying, “Delay the health-care law or we will single-handedly cause an unprecedented and unnecessary global financial crisis that everyone will clearly and correctly blame on us, destroying our party for years to come.”
It’s not a very persuasive ransom note to send. And Boehner knows it. It’s just something he’s saying to talk his party down from this tree. But come October, when they climb up into that higher, more dangerous, tree, he’s going to have to think of some new crazy promise to entice them down. Then, three months later, that promise will come back to bite him — and the rest of us. And eventually, someone’s going to make a mistake, and Boehner won’t manage to pull his people back from the brink at the last minute.
This is not a safe way to govern the country.
As is typical with Beltway politicos, Klein’s argument relies on one or two pieces of truth to mislead his readers. Consider:
• If the Speaker is lying as much as Klein claims – and he may very well be doing so – that is not the fault of the Tea Party. It’s the fault of the Speaker for not being willing or able to stand up for conservative principles he espouses but rarely stands for.
• The “dangerous tree” exists because too many Republicans and Democrats have colluded to raise spending and expand the Washington bureaucratic state. Blaming the Tea Party for going all-out now is like blaming a back-up quarterback for a Hail Mary pass – after the starting quarterback led the team to trail by four touchdowns.
• Speaker Boehner has shown himself to be a very poor negotiator since taking the Speaker’s gavel in 2011. The April 2011 budget debate, the August debt ceiling discussions, and many other opportunities to make the House’s voice heard have come and gone, and the best the Speaker has come up with is the Budget Control Act, which merely slowed the growth of federal spending in 2013.
• Klein is engaging in a clever bit of language bias. The American people oppose Obamacare and the President has delayed the employer mandate, caps on out-of-pocket expenses, and other parts of the law illegally – but it’s conservatives who are going to be responsible for the government shutting down?
An accurate assessment of the situation would note the President is ignoring the will of the people and giving special interests relief from Obamacare – and conservatives want him to give that same relief to all Americans.
Are Tea Party activists and Tea Party-minded Members of Congress giving the Speaker headaches? Absolutely. In this Klein has his (only) grain of truth. But like the former alcoholic who struggling with withdrawal, so must the spending addicts on Capitol Hill realize this headache is necessary to a healthier, happier future for America.