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Boehner's proposed deal today seems to be about as good as Republicans could hope for. But it's not likely to get the 218 or so votes it would need from the 234 members who supported Cut, Cap, and Balance (CCB).
Take a look at this from the main coalition that has formed to support Cut, Cap, and Balance (note all the groups down the right hand side). The group is clear that, as much as they respect the Speaker, they're not going to support the deal. Given this opposition, there's no way Boehner will rally the votes he needs.
So, unwittingly or not, it seems that game has shifted: away from a goal of cutting spending to a goal of forcing Obama into a short-term deal. CCB supporters would not say this, but it seems to be what is happening before our eyes.
Conservatives have won the political and rhetorical argument about spending cuts (note how the Democrats have trended toward the right in the discussions). But we haven't won the policy argument yet: we can't get a serious plan from Obama or Reid (Boehner said Reid's plan today is "full of gimmicks") that says clearly what kinds of cuts they'll include. They'll dance all day and never land. And they won't support what the majority of Republicans want. As much as the conservative grassroots are in support of CCB, not enough other Americans are. Polls show support for the bill (it is the only real plan after all), but also a desire for Washington politicians to get a deal (meaning compromise). Obama and Reid know this and are gambling that the CCB crowd will ultimately alienate the GOP from enough 2012 voters they hope to pick up.
The CCB caucus would do well if one of its own started promoting the merits of a short term deal to its many grassroots supporters. Since they won't get the CCB objectives they want now, they should aim for them after 2012.
And to do that, they should force Obama into the place he absolutely doesn't want to be: raising the debt limit on his own during the election year.
Fred Barnes notes today:
Why is Obama so adamant about avoiding a second debt vote? Very simple, a Republican involved in debt limit talks says. Obama doesn’t want the issue of his spending and borrowing to be highlighted once again as he’s seeking reelection.
As George Will pointed out in his latest column, the Tea Party has done immeasurable good, and it can continue doing so if it keeps a 16 month window in its purview and doesn't bet its whole wad on this debt deal. But if it overplays its CCB hand now, voters may pay Republicans back in 2012.
Also, as Michael Barone astutely wrote yesterday, it will take another solid round of electoral victories in 2012 to give the GOP its mandate. As much as it feels like Republicans have a mandate, they really, really need to win big again in 2012.
With Obama running for the cameras almost every day now (yes, sorry everyone, he'll be holding another temper tantrum press conference tonight at 9pm), he will continue to use his bully pulpit to hang the coming default and downgrade around the Republicans' necks.
So, it's the job of the Republicans now to get as much long-term, codified-in-law spending reductions as possible, and absent a satisfactory level, hang the whole problem back around the President's neck.
Which brings us back to the McConnell plan, or some version of it - which may end up being the best worst option. It's not pretty, but absent real spending cuts, it's where we are headed.
If we go that route, according to my math, at least we would get through the entire NFL season and perhaps even the playoffs before the debt debates would resume again in 2012. Thank goodness that at least the NFL had some able negotiators cut a deal today.