House Republicans are emerging from their retreat in Williamsburg with a creative plan, and a clever challenge for Senate Democrats and the White House. Speaker John Boehner said, “Before there is any long-term debt limit increase, a budget should be passed...[it] is a shameful run that needs to end, this year.” The speaker said the fact that Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget in almost four years is shameful, but what it really is, is destructive to America. And by the way, it’s hypocritical to listen to the president blame Republicans and to keep a straight face while he specifically insults the House of Representatives and does nothing to control spending himself.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy clarified the Republican plan, stating that, “What we are talking about now inside this retreat is moving the debt limit past April 15.” Finally, some of the burden of the responsibility will be shifted to a president who has refused to lead. Finally, Obama will be put to the test. Will he lead the Democrats to pass a budget or not?
It is good policy and good politics to force the Democrats’ hand on passing a budget. Obama has had it both ways with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget — blasting it for being cruel and heartless, while simultaneously complaining that Republicans never put forward anything specific. Last week, in the latest underreported insult from the Obama administration, Acting Budget Director Jeff Zients informed the House Budget Committee that the White House will not be submitting a budget by the deadline of Feb. 4 — as it is required to do by law.
This Insider has always thought that now was the wrong time to have a fight over the debt ceiling, since Republicans can dictate the timing of that fight. Now, in one graceful move, Boehner has set a calendar that gives the president and the Democrats plenty of ways to participate and also traps them into having to reveal their true intentions. First, we have the sequester deadline on March 1, 2013, then we have the expiration of our current budget, under the continuing resolution, on March 27th, and now the speaker has added the deadline of approximately April 15th (ironically, when taxpayers must send their hard-earned money to Washington) for a final showdown between sound budgeting or the president and the Democrats pushing America into default. Good for Boehner, good for Ryan and hats off to the House GOP leadership. Nothing comes easy, but at least now it appears the Democrats will be forced to act or face the consequences. Around April 15th, we might be on the road to ending spending in Washington as we know it.
And as a good test of how the conservative core of the Republicans in Congress feels about this, watch Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) discuss the debt ceiling on “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
P.S. — I’m one Republican who is staying in Washington this weekend. I may be tweeting some of my observations as I attend events in the spirit of bipartisanship. Follow me on Twitter at @EdRogersDC.