The House of Representatives voted yesterday to implement a budget process that could have a historical effect. With all the sniping from Democrats and yawns from the mainstream media it might be easy to miss the significance of what is happening. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has engineered a graceful pivot that puts the supporters of the status quo in Washington on the defensive. President Obama and the Senate Democrats, who have not passed a budget in four years, will have a hard time ignoring their responsibilities and an even harder time disguising what they are really for.
A budget is a plan put to numbers. Having no budget means the president and the Democrats have no plan — or at the very least, they don't want anyone to know the truth about what their plan is. If they had their way there would be no limit on the national debt, no public budget and no scrutiny of or inhibitions limiting their mindless, dangerous spending. In a masterful display of political jujitsu and with some good luck, the GOP leaders in the House of Representatives are about to lead Washington in a debate that should produce a real operating plan for the United States.
Delaying the vote on the debt ceiling isn't a punt by the GOP, it is clever positioning that allows it to take the offense. Now the president and his allies will have all the opportunity and time they need to prepare, debate and pass a real budget. If the president does not lead and the Democrats in the Senate don't do their work, America could default and, even more salient in Washington, senators won't receive their paychecks, thanks to what the House passed yesterday, with 86 votes from Democrats.
That paycheck provision explains why the response from many on the left has been muted. They don't know how to respond to the idea that if the Senate doesn't work, the Senate won't get paid. Call it a gimmick, say it's unconstitutional — but the commonsensical appeal is inescapable. Every voter in the United States gets it and for the time being, the president and his allies are flat-footed. Also, no one on the ballot in 2014 wants to be on the wrong side of the "no budget, no pay" argument.
As all Insiders readers know, in politics, a bumper sticker beats an essay — and for the first time in quite a while, Republicans in Washington have a bumper sticker and the Democrats are stuck with an essay.