Our View: Speaker John Boehner proved he had the chops to wage and win a public relations war with Obama, but the actual cuts the Republicans won were minuscule compared to the nation's hulking debt. The true test will be whether the GOP can use their new found political acumen to win three vastly more important budget fights in 2011.
Conservatives seem divided over the success of Speaker John Boehner and Congressional Republicans in their bout of budget brinkmanship with Barack Obama.
The Drudge Report screamed banner headlines over the weekend with the Charlie Sheen inspired monogram "Winning" under a picture of Boehner.
Politico also gave the win to Boehner, saying:
"Boehner may have been outnumbered by Democrats at the table 2-to-1, but by the way the final deal shaped up, you wouldn't know it."
Other respected voices took a different view.
Among them: Dick Morris and the conservative online holy grail Red State. Both argue that $38.5 billion in cuts ($61 on an annual basis) to an underlying $3.7 trillion budget that, even with the cuts, still piles a trillion beans onto the national debt is hardly something to cheer.
Having failed to stand firm for just $61 billion in cuts in a budget of $3.7 trillion, how can we expect him to stand firm over the debt limit extension or the 2012 budget? We can’t. The excellent budget proposals of Paul Ryan are no more than a pipe dream now. Boehner has sold us out now and he’ll sell us out again.
Here's Red State, sounding the same theme:
For perspective, the federal government spends $10.46 billion a day. The Democrats and Republicans have now come together to cut out just under 4 days worth of spending out of 365 days.
Our view: There's truth in both views, and the whole exercise was the political equivalent of a split decision. Speaker John Boehner proved he had the chops to wage and win a public relations war with Obama, and he did run up a heckuva' lot more in spending cuts than Obama and Reid would have ever imagined conceding mere months ago. Still, framed against national debt that is about $14 trillion, the actual cuts the Republicans won were minuscule compared to the hulking debt.
In other words, the GOP won the political scrape but they don't have nearly enough to show for it.
But there is good news in all this for conservatives: the House GOP will have three more opportunities to extract more substantial government reductions in three budget showdowns.
The first chance, the impending showdown over the raising the debt ceiling. As the NY Times reports this morning:
Congressional Republicans are vowing that before they will agree to raise the current $14.25 trillion federal debt ceiling — a step that will become necessary in as little as five weeks — President Obama and Senate Democrats will have to agree to far deeper spending cuts for next year and beyond than those contained in the six-month budget deal agreed to late Friday night that cut $38 billion and averted a government shutdown.
The second chance, will be the all-important entitlement reform debate triggered by budget guru Paul Ryan earlier this week. As we reported last week, this fight is the big one…it represents Republicans best shot at winning big cuts to a big deficit.
The third opportunity will be when the GOP, Harry Reid and Barack Obama go through the appropriations process for next years' spending bills — a repeat of the process that was just completed this weekend, only for next year.
The true test will be whether the GOP can use its new found political acumen to win three vastly more important budget fights in 2011.
The GOP will have an opportunity to prove their credibility on cuts this Wednesday when Barack Obama releases his plan on long term debt. If his debt analysis is even remotely similar to debt projections the White House trumpeted over Obamacare you can be sure they’ll be plenty of budgetary gimmicks and little in the way of actual cuts. Keep an eye out to see if the Republicans hold his feet to the fire and force fiscal reality into discussions.
All other spending debates pale in comparison to the one over long term debt. If we don’t get that right, nothing else matters.