Eric Cantor’s lengthy interview yesterday on Fox News Sunday is really worth reading in full and pondering at some length. It perfectly captures why it’s looking more and more likely that we are genuinely headed for a government shutdown this fall.
In the interview, Fox host Chris Wallace practically begs Cantor to have a reality-based conversation about the coming shutdown fight, the sequester, and Obamacare. Again and again, Cantor steers the conversation back into pure fantasy. As I noted here last week, it’s laughable that Republican leaders are surprised at the ferocity of the right’s demand for debt limit and government shutdown/defund Obamacare confrontations, since they have been feeding the base fantasies about Obamacare repeal and government spending for literally years now. Cantor’s interview offers no effort whatsoever to disabuse folks of the lies, distortions and misdirection that continue making sane discussion of any of this impossible:
1) Cantor claims the deficit is “growing” ( it isn’t), and asserts the coming debt limit fight is our chance to do something about it. But GOP leaders have already conceded the debt limit will be raised in the end, because not doing so will cause widespread damage to the economy. They need to stop deceiving their voters into believing the debt limit gives them leverage.
2) Cantor claims the House GOP is the “only one who has consistently engaged in trying to address the spending problem.” In fact, Dems agreed to $1.5 trillion in spending cuts in 2011. But Republicans refuse to level with the base about the concessions Dems have made and continue to offer — making any kind of discussion based on the same reality impossible.
3) Asked if Republicans are open to replacing the sequester, Cantor says they are, but floats the idea of replacing it only with entitlement cuts. Needless to say, a deal that includes concessions made only by one side is not a compromise and is a non starter. The failure to acknowledge this also makes this harder.
4) Asked by Wallace if Republicans are demanding complete “surrender” from Dems, Cantor, amazingly, claims there is some common ground: Obama has delayed the employer mandate, showing he admits Obaamcare is “flawed'; Republicans agree; so both sides should join in repealing the individual mandate!
Now, one has to hope that this is mostly bluster and posturing. Indeed, it’s possible Republican leaders will quietly edge towards avoiding a government shutdown to defund Obamacare even as they continue to rail about the need to repeal the law, to avoid looking like squishes and Obama enablers. Indeed, Cantor kept steering the conversation back to Obamacare’s evils, even as he gingerly suggested conservatives and Republicans alike agree “we shouldn’t be for a government shutdown.” And Paul Ryan also talked down the idea of a shutdown confrontation yesterday.
But the tentativeness with which leaders continue to hint that a shutdown may not be the best idea — combined with the continued refusal to level with the base about the very things that are pushing us towards the abyss — doesn’t bode well.
* GOP GOVERNORS DON’T WANT GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: Related to the above: There’s no support for a shutdown in some quarters of the GOP. Republican Governors are warning their GOP counterparts in Washington that a shutdown confrontation to force the defunding of Obamacare could disrupt services to their constituents and damage their states’ economies. This, from Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, is noteworthy:
“The worst part is the uncertainty. My great fear would be anything that provides great uncertainty for the employers of our country.”
“Uncertainty,” of course, has been the catchword for Washington Republicans arguing against government regulations, but a real cause of “uncertainty” that could damage the economy is GOP sabotage governing.
* REPUBLICANS FALL VICTIM TO THEIR OWN CON GAME: Paul Krugman notes that GOP leaders who are grappling with the right’s drive to defund Obamacare, and its insistence on impossibly deep spending cuts, only have themselves to blame, having fed the base fantasies on both fronts for years:
The result is what we see now in the House: a party that, as I said, seems unable to participate in even the most basic processes of governing. What makes this frightening is that Republicans do, in fact, have a majority in the House, so America can’t be governed at all unless a sufficient number of those House Republicans are willing to face reality. And that quorum of reasonable Republicans may not exist.
Which means, as I noted here the other day, that it may fall to Nancy Pelosi to bail out GOP leaders yet again from the mess they made yet again.
* MORE TRANSPARENCY NEEDED ON NSA SURVEILLANCE: Glenn Greenwald reports on new documents that show members of Congress have been rebuffed in their requests for basic information about the NSA programs and their legal rationales. It continues to be amazing that we can’t even get any traction for legislative fixes that would do the bare minimum — shed light on the programs without even necessarily altering them — given that public officials themselves (Obama included) claim concerns about the secrecy shrouding them are legitimate.
* YES, WE NEED EXPANDED BACKGROUND CHECKS: The Post reports:
The marketplace for firearms on the Internet, where buyers are not required to undergo background checks, is so vast that advocates for stricter regulations now consider online sales a greater threat than the gun show loophole. A new study by Third Way, a centrist think tank with close ties to the Obama administration, found that thousands of guns, including so-called assault weapons, are for sale online and that many prospective buyers were shopping online specifically to avoid background checks.
Harry Reid has promised another vote on this in 2014, and every little bit that enables advocates to keep organizing around this can only help.
* GOP LEADERS SWAT DOWN COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM: Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan both reiterated yesterday that House Republicans will vote on piecemeal immigration reforms, rather than on the Senate bill. But a vote on the Senate bill was always a long shot; what matters is whether Republicans vote on a piecemeal provision offering citizenship, which could get us to conference. It also remains to be seen whether GOP leaders will really nix any vote on the House gang of seven bill, which is to the right of the Senate effort.
* MCCONNELL TAKING HITS FROM RIGHT AND LEFT: The Courier Journal has an interesting look at the speech Mcconnell’s Tea Party challenger, Matt Bevin, gave this weekend, and how it shows that both right and left (Dem Alison Lundergan Grimes) are hitting him with the same message: McConnell has become a creature of Washington who has lost touch with the people of his state. The message overlap is why Dems hope the Bevin challenge could help depress McConnell’s support in the general election.
* TIME TO ACT ON GAY WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION: The Post has a very good editorial prodding Congress and Obama to finally get serious about passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which Congress must prioritize when it returns this fall. Of course, as the editorial notes, Obama could act right now by signing an executive order barring discrimination by federal contractors, which I expect he will do this year if Congress fails yet again.
* MARCO RUBO, IN THE DOGHOUSE: The Hill talks to Republicans who say Rubio has got a lot of explaining to do for his apostasy on immigration, and that he is very much in a rehabilitation stage. Yes, it does seem clear that attempting to compromise with Democrats to solve the country’s problems is probably an unforgivable offense.
* AND TODAY’S PLUM READS:
Steve Benen gives Eric Cantor a little refresher on the meaning of the word “compromise.”
Roll Call on the farm bill’s prospects, why they will drag on into the fall, and why it may requiring negotiating around House Republicans who want to cut food stamps by $40 billion.
Ed Rogers, a GOP consultant, admits Republicans have only themselves to blame for their shutdown/Obamacare woes, and wonders why the GOP has given up on acting as a “constructive opposition.”