Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) often provides the details and the ammunition for conservatives to combat bad ideas; last night he dropped what one Republican Senate adviser called a “bomb” on the Gang of Six, exposing the gigantic tax hikes and defense cuts, the absence of real entitlement reform and the sketchy spending cuts. One wonders if Republicans such as Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and others even knew what was in there before throwing their support behind a deal that seems to violate most of the GOP’s core principles.
The Senate adviser told me, “I think a bunch of Republicans are buying into the Gang of Six talking points too quickly.” He predicted, “I think most will scurry as soon as the real bill is written and all the promises prove false.”
Meanwhile, many found it odd that Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) expressed interest in the deal. After all, his staff is well aware that the revenue target is huge, there’s no real Medicare reforms and there’s no strong enforcement mechanism. Certainly, Cantor could be intrigued by the hope of tax reform. As Ryan explained on the House Budget Committee Web site:
It acknowledges the need for tax reform, proposes a top rate of not more than 29% and as low as 23%. It calls for the reduction of the top corporate tax rate to at least 29% and as low as 23%. It recognizes the current tax code’s complexity and high marginal tax rates hinders economic and job growth. It calls for the tax code to be reformed to move to a territorial system. It calls for any unanticipated additional revenues from economic growth to be used to lower tax rates or deficit reduction, and not used for higher spending. While a laudable proposal, it appears to have no mechanism to ensure this result. To achieve this objective would require, at a minimum, a cap on total spending and ideally a cap on revenues as well.
Sure, it’d be great if Obama bought into that, but all along Republicans have opposed bad ideas (e.g. tax hikes) even if accompanied by some attractive items. On the bright side he will now completely flummox the left who painted him as a no-compromise ideologue.
National security hawks blasted the deal. Tom Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute told me, “It can only lead to the hollowing of the military: it will be smaller, less well equipped, less well trained. The remaining few weapons programs, particularly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, can’t survive cuts of that magnitude, thus depriving the Air Force, the Navy and the Marine Corps of the one hope they have of fielding a modern, survivable aircraft.” That inevitably will lead to a more dangerous world. He cautioned, “And when bad things happen in the world — Iran goes nuclear, China muscles its way around East Asia. Pick your poison, we’ll either send our regrets while doing nothing, or like Task Force Smith in Korea, we’ll send unready forces into harm’s way.”
Over in the Senate, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) was having none of the Gang of Six’s handiwork, and his office released this statement:
There is no legislation for review yet, but based on what has been reported, the Senator has serious concerns. Senator DeMint supports Cut, Cap & Balance and will not vote to increase the debt limit until a balanced budget amendment is sent to the states for ratification. He also opposes net tax increases that discourages job growth and would further harm our economy.
Even those conservative lawmakers who are not going to insist on a balanced-budget amendment passing Congress are going to look pretty foolish if, after denouncing Obama’s grand bargain (including the huge tax increases) and the McConnell plan (which includes no tax hikes), they buy into the Gang of Six’s scheme. And as for Wicker, he’s up for reelection in Mississippi. If he persists with this tomfoolery, he might just face a primary challenge.