With apologies to Winston Churchill, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” That is precisely where we will be tomorrow after the Senate votes on “cut, cap and balance.”
Wesley Denton, spokesman for Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), had this take on why the vote was moved up: “Panic. [Democrats are] worried the longer Americans hear debate over balancing the budget that Democrats will lose the debate. A new poll shows 66% of Americans support Cup, Cat and Balance, even though the media has largely ignored the bill or dismissed it out of hand whenever reported. Americans overwhelmingly support balancing the budget, and they won’t understand why Obama and Democrats are willing to risk default rather than agree to a balanced budget amendment.” Well, it would be nice if the Senate felt the American people breathing down their necks, but I think it’s more mundane than that.
As Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell’s communications director explained in an email to the media, “Regular order would have been to have a cloture vote on Saturday. Sen. [Harry] Reid wanted to move it up to Friday instead. Sen. McConnell did not agree with shortening the debate, so if the vote is tomorrow, that would mean a motion to table, which Sen. Reid can force without a UC. It would not be a cloture vote.”
The English translation? Reid doesn’t want to wait for Saturday, which according to the Senate rules, would be the first time filibuster rules would apply without the consent of the other side. Instead, he wants to get on with things (“things” being unclear), get the vote over with tomorrow, and send it to oblivion on a simple majority. I expect no Democrats will vote for it and no Republicans will vote for it. (Right around now, conservative true-believers should consider whether it really was a swell idea to nominate Christine O’Donnell, Sharon Angle and others in 2010. It would be nice to have some votes right around now.)
And then? The New York Times printed a story that there was a “deal” close at hand between President Obama and the speaker of the House. Except everyone denied it. A Senate adviser deadpanned that “hopefully something to cut spending” would follow after the vote on Friday.
In the House, Michael Steel, spokesman for the ever-disciplined Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) expressed hope that “Senate Democrats will listen to the American people, who strongly support this common sense measure.” He was mum on what might follow.
I think it’s safe to say we won’t have a Gang of Six plan. If you can believe it, Sen. Tom Coburn, who championed the much panned Gang of Six plan, now insists only the “cut, cap and balance” plan will get through. It is right about now that Americans begin to wonder whether there’s not enough oxygen in the Senate chambers to sustain intelligent life. Seriously, the public is justifiably disgusted..
I’ve suspected that the McConnell plan with some spending cuts layered on top would carry the day. That still may happen. Or maybe Boehner gets in the room with Obama, and says, “$2 trillion in cuts and we do it again before the election or $3 trillion and we’re done.” (Or whatever the figures are.) Isn’t that really the simplest and only sort of measure that will carry the day? And, it also explains why Democrats are having a meltdown. I mean such a deal would be, if not a home run, a triple for Boehner, right?