Senate Republicans Get Played

On Sunday July 3, 2011, U.S. Senator John Cornyn said on a morning show that the Republicans would consider a short-term deal that would raise the debt ceiling, but would not address any of the underlying issues that are driving U.S. debt to stratospheric levels.  Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called for the Senate to stay in session and hammer out a deal that would increase taxes on America’s top wage earners and according to the President, end the subsidies for the corporate jet class of businessman and woman. 

So, as the country came out of a long holiday weekend, and the Senate was up to its same old thing-nothing, the President held a quick press conference on how to handle the debt and deficit.  In the span, of two minutes, the Senate Republicans were played like a fiddle and the President gained back some ground he had lost. 

The setup was long and carefully played and the Republicans went for the cheese on the trap.  In April, Paul Ryan produced his budget that would cut 6.2 trillion dollars over the next ten years by essentially reforming the United States Government’s entitlement programs.  Ryan’s plan was bold, not perfect, but it was a good opening salvo in the debt and deficit talks. 

The press savaged it; the Democrats excoriated it; and some Republicans ran from it (Newt Gingrich comes to mind).  The President demagogued it in a speech and it seemed as though the Republicans had gained some traction.  The President’s own budget up to that point was not a reform based budget, but after Ryan released his roadmap, the President and his advisors changed their budget and produced one that cuts over 4 trillion over the next ten years. 

Paul Ryan had made them move and the Republicans were emboldened, but Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner entered the picture and said that if the Congress didn’t raise the debt ceiling, we would descend into financial chaos. 

So, everyone had their talking points and nothing happened for a couple of months, as usual, until the rhetoric went up a notch over a week ago.  The President scolded Congress in a press conference to the point of making MSNBC analyst Mark Halperin call him a four letter word that promptly got him suspended.  Senator Schumer of New York said everyone had to give up something and that the Republicans were playing politics, and then Senator Reid set the trap by forcing everyone to stay over the Fourth of July weekend and look Congressional by hammering out a deal.  Sunday, Senator Cornyn said the Republicans wanted something long-term but might take a short-term deal and then deal with the debt crisis as it evolved into next year; the President today changed the debate.  He went on the TV and said that this talk of a short-term deal is unacceptable.  The Republicans had put out there plan, and he had put out his, and it was time to do something big and bold.  In two minutes, the President marginalized the Republican Senators who didn’t like Paul Ryan’s budget and he put Paul Ryan and John Boehner front and center.  It was a shrewd move and good politics on the President’s part.  It also put John Boehner in the crosshairs because he controls the checkbook. 

Should be interesting to see this move forward.  I will wager that the President and the Speaker of the House might be playing some more golf in the future.  Let’s hope they talk about real issues while they play and not just meaningless golf talk.

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