Once more since arriving on Capitol Hill, the new Republican dominated House of Representatives and the newly reinforced Republican Senate minority has equivocated on the topic of spending cuts. By now we are all well aware that the Republicans have abandoned the goal of cutting $100 billion dollars this fiscal year and likewise, they have failed to produce a pro rata spending reduction plan to address that shortened year. We all remember that taxes, debt reduction and spending cuts were in the forefront of the Republican agenda for the 2010 elections as these headlines from conservative sources show: “Tax, Spending Cuts Top GOP Campaign-year ‘Pledge” or “Tax, spending cuts lead Republican campaign manifesto” Needless to say, You get the idea.
Okay so what then happened to all of the bold talk about taking on entitlements and spending? When faced with having to answer that question on national television Mitch McConnell echoed the reluctance that Speaker of the House John Boehner had previously stated. As if by magic, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appearing on “Meet the Press” danced around the question that Republicans seemed obviously reluctant to come out with bold measures to tackle deficit spending as the following exchange between Senator McConnell and host David Gregory reveals:
“MR. GREGORY: Well, that’s very interesting because I’ve also detected a great deal of caution on the part of Republicans who, who campaigned on the idea of spending cuts. And yet, when it comes to a program like Social Security–it was Speaker Boehner who told a group of us this week, “Well, look, we need to spend more time defining the problem before we get in the boat with the president here and say that we’ve got to make long-term changes.” Is that your view?
SEN. McCONNELL: Well, look, we have, we have two problems here. It’s our annual deficit, completely out of control. We’re going to send the president a lot less–we’re going to allow him to sign onto a lot less spending than he recommended the other night and that he’s likely to send us in the budget. Then with, with regard to long-term unfunded liabilities, the entitlements, Speaker Boehner’s correct, you cannot do that on a partisan basis. President Bush tried doing that in 2005 with regard to Social Security’s problems. And by the way, the announcement this week that Social Security’s gone into deficit, it will run a $45 billion deficit this year and for as far as the eye can see. Look, entitlement reform can only be done on a bipartisan basis. It’s happened before. Reagan and Tip O’Neill fixed Social Security in ’83. Reagan and the Democratic House did tax reform in ’86.
MR. GREGORY: So, but if the president were to say, “OK, Leader McConnell, if, if you’re prepared to deal with some revenue increases, we can also deal with some benefit cuts. Let’s take a balanced approach to Social Security,” you could support that?
SEN. McCONNELL: Look, you know, you’ve tried this before. I, I’m not going to negotiate the deal with David Gregory. I’d be happy to negotiate it…
MR. GREGORY: I keep hoping you’ll change your mind.
SEN. McCONNELL: I’d be happy to try to negotiate the deal, and Speaker Boehner would too, with the president and the vice president and others.
MR. GREGORY: But does the president have to go first before you’ll take on entitlement reform?
SEN. McCONNELL: We have to go together. We have to go together. The American people are asking us to tackle these problems. I think the president needs to be more bold. We’re prepared to meet–I’ve got a lot of new members, and Speaker Boehner does as well, who came here to tackle this big problem. We were waiting…
MR. GREGORY: But you’re saying, “Be bold on entitlements and Republicans will meet you halfway”?
SEN. McCONNELL: We’re happy to sit down and talk about entitlement reform with the president. We know Social Security is in trouble. It was just announced by CBO this week. We know Medicare is on an unsustained path. They took a half a trillion dollars out of it to fund this healthcare program that they enacted. Look, we need to get serious about this.”
As the above commentary reveals, what we have before us is a Republican leadership cadre that has already deviated from the rhetoric of the campaign trail by putting the ball in Barack Obama’s court by stressing that it is the duty of the President to come up with “bold” proposals on deficit and spending reduction as per Senator McConnell’s commentary above. But wasn’t that what the Republicans ran on in the first place? For all of the rhetoric of 2010 can’t they showcase their own bold ideas on “Meet the Press”, America’s premier Sunday morning political talk show? Likewise, Speaker Boehner’s comment that Republicans “need to spend more time defining the problem” also seems to ring hollow, coming from a guy who on this very show said before the 2010 elections that the G.O.P. had spent the past last year listening to “the American people.”
Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t the Republicans present themselves as the people who had this problem figured out and who knew what to do to get this country back on the right track, which oddly enough they got us off of in the first place when they squandered a trillion dollar plus surplus and launched two wars while cutting taxes, a historical first for the United States? They had the opportunity to put that surplus into the Social Security system or to use it to pay down the national debt as they were advised to do by Alan Greenspan, yet they chose to do otherwise. Now when elected to produce bold public policy to address our fiscal problems they plead for “more time” and look a president much maligned by them for “bold” proposals!
What’s also semi-comical is Mr. McConnell’s new found affinity for bipartisan cooperation. Isn’t it a bit curious that they very guy who said it was his goal to see that Barack Obama be a one term president, now openly solicits the President’s support and cooperation? Is this borne of a realization that the Republicans can’t possibly meet their agenda alone? Is this a maneuver concocted to throw a curve ball at the Tea Party crowd as there has been little beyond rhetoric on the part of the G.O.P. when it comes to deficit reduction specifics? We’ve all heard about Congressman Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America” yet it’s a document that few in the Republican Party had signed onto in the run up to 2010.
In the final analysis it seems that the bold rhetoric of the campaign trail has now faded in the harsh winter of political reality. Hence the old adage, “talk is cheap.” Now that they are in a position of power in Washington, the Republicans will have to finally translate their rhetoric into policy, thus far they have done little but dance around the tough issues and meet tough questions with clever rhetorical replies. How long will that last before their constituents hit the streets and demand some form of accountability from those who went to Washington to turn back the tide of Obama “the Socialist.”
Steven J. Gulitti
Meet the Press transcript for Jan. 30, 2011 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41… … anscripts/
“Tax, Spending Cuts Top GOP Campaign-year ‘Pledge”
http://www.newsmax.com/InsideC… … id371215
Tax, spending cuts lead Republican campaign
manifestohttp://www.cleveland.com/natio … publi.html