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Did the House GOP get BTU’d?

By Ezra Klein,

John Boehner has been wishy-washy on Paul Ryan’s Medicare reforms. The White House is obviously not going to sign a budget including them, and Eric Cantor has admitted as much. Michele Bachmann is concerned about the cost-shifting and says her vote came with an “asterisk.” To my knowledge, none of the serious Republicans who are likely to run for president have really endorsed voucherizing Medicare. You see where this is going? Steve Benen does:

Republicans, if they are prepared to scrap their Medicare privatization plan, made a terrible strategic decision when it came to pursuing their agenda. They knew ending Medicare would be unpopular, they knew Democrats would never go for it, but they voted for it anyway. Now GOP leaders are prepared to negotiate it away, which makes sense, but what about the 235 House Republicans — 98% of the caucus — who stuck their necks out and voted for this ridiculous agenda because their leaders asked them to?

The attack ads they’ll face next year will be brutal — and accurate — and they’ll have nothing to show for their risk.

There’s a term for when the House leadership forces a vote on legislation that puts representatives in danger but gets ignored by the Senate and the White House: it’s called “getting BTU’d,” after an energy tax (pdf) the Clinton administration passed through the House and then sacrificed in the Senate.

In 2010, a number of House members felt BTU’d after Nancy Pelosi forced them to vote on a cap-and-trade plan that never made it to the Senate floor, but made it into a lot of their reelection campaigns. But it’s not clear how much cap-and-trade — or, for that matter, the BTU tax — actually mattered in the subsequent election. But Ryan’s Medicare plan will be a core part of the Democratic message in 2012. This could be a BTUing at a whole other level.

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