The Morning Plum: GOP set to stiff-arm conservatives once again?

Paul Ryan (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Paul Ryan (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

If we are going to get a deal to replace the sequester, which looks likely, perhaps one key reason may be as follows: This time, the incentives favor Republicans showing they can enter into the basic give and take of governing.

With GOP Rep. Paul Ryan close to a deal with Dem Senator Patty Murray that would lift spending levels to just over $1 trillion in fiscal 2014 and 2015, conservatives are already savaging it. Everyone from RedState.com to Breitbart to Hot Air to Heritage Action to Americans for Prosperity have pilloried the deal for lifting spending levels, warning of an imminent cave to Democrats. As National Journal reports, a revolt is brewing among House conservatives.

Despite conservative opposition, the expected deal may end up passing the House with the support of Democrats. Of course, those with very long memories will recall that only a few months ago, the notion that GOP leaders would allow something to pass with a lot of Dems — provoking great rage from the right — was thought to be unthinkably risky. Now, it looks at least possible that House GOP leaders will try to get this done with a minimum of drama. What changed?

The difference this time is that Republicans know they can’t afford another crisis heading into 2014. Having already gotten scorched by the last Tea Party-inspired government shutdown — which only ended when House GOP leaders bowed to the inevitable need to stiff-arm the Tea Party — Republican leaders appear determined not to let things get out of hand this time. Which means the only other alternative — aside from temporarily funding the government at sequester levels again, which would only mean another battle into 2014 — is to enter into the sort of basic governing that requires making concessions.

In this case, the only route to a budget deal was to allow spending levels to rise, which is exactly what House Republican leaders appear on the verge of doing. Republicans who want to showcase an ability to govern and replace the sequester — which is more urgent for hawks, because sequester cuts to defense are deeper in 2014 – seem ready to support this agreement, since it defers the big argument over tax hikes, funding increased spending with new fees.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, many observers are wondering how hard Mitch McConnell will work to corral opposition to any deal, given he is facing a primary. But Dem aides say they think some Senate Republicans are ripe for wooing, whatever McConnell does, such as moderates who want a deal (Susan Collins, Mike Enzi, Bob Corker, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman) and defense hawks (Lindsay Graham, John McCain).

Obviously the deal could still fall apart, and perhaps conservatives will kick up enough noise to block any compromise. But still: For much of 2013 we were told angering the right and/or agreeing to a penny in additional spending were impossibilities for GOP leaders to even contemplate. Now that GOP leaders want to prove they can govern in advance of the 2014 elections, it’s striking how quickly these rules that once held such presumed sway over our politics have fallen away.

* STILL NO EXTENSION FOR UNEMPLOYED IN BUDGET DEAL: The latest on the emerging compromise:

Work appeared to be complete on the basic package, a plan to partially repeal sharp spending cuts known as the sequester in fiscal 2014 and 2015 and cover the cost with roughly $65 billion in alternative savings. But…it was unclear Monday whether Democrats would succeed in their campaign to win a year-long extension of emergency jobless benefits, which are set to expire at the end of the month, cutting off 1.3 million people.

As Brian Beutler explains, Democrats may not have a choice, because Republicans would still seem to have the last-ditch option, if necessary, of passing a continuing resolution funding the government at sequester levels, a worse outcome for Dems.

* GOP CIVIL WAR DEEPENS: The Fix crew notes that Senator John Cornyn has a primary challenger in the person of GOP Rep. Steve Stockman, and offers this interesting overview:

In doing so, Stockman not only threw a wrench in Cornyn’s plans. He also intensified the broader GOP civil war that is vexing the lives of Republican senators like never before. Seven of the 12 up for reelection next year now face capable or potentially tough primary challengers, including the two top-ranking Republicans and a third who used to serve in leadership.

It appears primaries could only make a difference in two states — Kentucky and Georgia — but the extent of it is a reminder of just how deep intra-party GOP divisions remain.

* OBAMACARE WEBSITE FUNCTIONING FAR BETTER: Consumers and navigators in several states tell the New York Times that the website is working far better than in October, though glitches remain. Note these metrics:

Since early December, the federal exchange website has run without crashing, officials said. In the first week of December, about 112,000 people selected plans — compared with about 100,000 in all of November and only 27,000 in October. Last week, more than half a million people created accounts on the federal website, according to people familiar with the health care project.

The next key test comes later this month, when a surge of enrollment is expected in advance of the December 23rd deadline for 2014 coverage. What’s immediately clear, however, is that despite weeks of awful press for the law, demand is still there.

* CONGRESS PUTS DEAL WITH IRAN AT RISK: The New York Times has a good editorial making the point that opposition to the deal with Iran is a more serious threat from the American side than it is from Iranian hard liners. A deal is reportedly close in the Senate to impose new sanctions:

They are not only unproductive but unnecessary because Congress could, at any point in the future, order tougher sanctions if any deal falls apart. Equally clear is that they will almost certainly enrage the Iranians. The interim deal stated that no further sanctions should be imposed while it was in force. New penalties would betray that agreement, feed Iranians’ deep mistrust of Americans, deny Mr. Obama negotiating flexibility and, most likely, crush any hope that a diplomatic solution is possible.

At its best, the emerging deal would allow for flexibility in imposing sanctions if both sides want to keep negotiating after the six month deadline, and even this is opposed by the administration.

* NO IMMIGRATION REFORM THIS YEAR: Dana Milbank calls it: The House of Representatives is set to leave town for the year without moving on immigration reform, mainly because lawmakers fear action will earn them primary challenges. We keep hearing from GOP leaders that there will be action next year, but with primary season starting up, it’s hard to see why it will be any easier in 2014 than it was for all of 2013.

* KEEP AN EYE ON ECONOMIC PESSIMISM: A new CBS News poll finds that 61 percent of Americans say the economy is in bad shape, with 37 percent saying it’s good, only a slight increase since the summer. As noted here yesterday, it’s possible the economy will matter more than Obamacare in 2014, and it’s still conceivable economic optimism could pick up, if the recovery does gain steam and memories of the government shutdown fade as the sequester is lifted. Of course, it would be a big threat to incumbent Dems if the recovery remains very sluggish.

* AND NO END TO McCONNELL’S DISSEMBLING ABOUT OBAMACARE: Glenn Kessler takes apart Mitch McConnell’s startling claim that 85 percent of Americans will see “extraordinary disruption” due to the health law. This point can’t be stated enough:

As we have repeatedly noted, there are winners and losers, and no one really knows what the final score will be.

Only time will answer that question. But it’s worth reiterating that opponents of the law are dissembling madly about the tradeoffs with the explicit purpose of dissuading people from enrolling, and enjoying the law’s benefits, in hopes of making it fail.

What else?

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