By LAWRENCE KUDLOW
One of the biggest mistakes President Obama is making in the current debate over the threat of a government shutdown and the failure to raise the debt ceiling is his repeated and stubborn refusal to negotiate. In speech after speech, Obama crusades against negotiation. Has anyone ever seen anything like this? He’s the president. Supposedly, he’s the chief executive. But Obama doesn’t want to dirty his hands by talking to Republican congressional leaders.
Now, this is an odd paradigm given the fact that the president and his lieutenants are willing to negotiate with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Syria’s Bashir al-Assad, and most recently, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. They are a motley crew at best and a bunch of dictatorial mass-killing thugs in truth.
What does this say about the president’s strategy for the economic health and wealth of his own country, the United States of America?
Lately, there have been reports of a possible White House meeting on the so-called continuing-resolution, CR, budget, but there’s no discussion of the debt ceiling. And you really can’t do one without the other; the deadlines are only a couple of weeks apart.
And then comes Obama’s extraordinary claim that in the history of the United States, non-budget items have never been attached to the debt ceiling. He is essentially calling Speaker John Boehner and the other GOP congressional members extortionists.
Well, according to Fact Checker columnist Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post, the president’s claim is completely wrong. Going back decades, the debt ceiling bills have been linked to campaign-finance reform, Social Security, ending the bombing in Cambodia, voluntary school prayer, banning bussing to achieve integration, and proposing a nuclear freeze. Way back in 1982, then-Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker unleashed a free for all, allowing 1,400 non-germane amendments to the debt ceiling legislation. Kessler rightly gives Obama four Pinocchios.
Actually, in terms of renewing the government’s borrowing requirement, Boehner is proposing what I would term financially related, germane amendments. Though final decisions have not yet been made, the speaker is talking about a one-year delay of Obamacare, including all taxes and regulations related to the health plan, instructions for revenue-neutral tax reform, and additional instructions for entitlement reform, all as part of a one-year extension of the debt ceiling. Only the passage of the Keystone pipeline could be termed non-germane.
But then again, the president himself is beginning to look non-germane. He won’t negotiate, and he won’t compromise. Apparently, he won’t even discuss.
So Republicans are essentially going it alone. Can you blame them? They’d like to avoid a government shutdown and a Treasury borrowing crisis.
After passing a continuing resolution that includes defunding Obamacare, the House GOP is sending the CR over to the Senate. No one knows how this is going to turn out, and in all likelihood, it won’t pass. Harry Reid said he’s going to send it back minus the Obamacare defunding.
But a big question here is whether the Senate version of the CR will include the budget-cutting sequester, something the Obama Democrats obsessively hate. The sequester has held down spending, a solid economic-policy success, with more to come if the GOP keeps its eye on that ball. Republicans cannot lose sight of the sequester (set ital) benefits (end ital) leading to a smaller government share of the economy and freeing up resources to invest and grow.
One more point on the Republican defunding strategy. Current political pundit and former President George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove has warned the GOP about a recent poll showing that independents oppose defunding Obamacare if that risks a temporary government shutdown. While they dislike Obamacare, according to Rove’s Crossroads GPS poll, independents oppose the shutdown scenario by nearly 30 percentage points. The defunding-shutdown threat is something Republicans must avoid.
I believe that a one-year delay of the individual mandate would pass the Senate if it ever came to a vote. It would be safer politically for the whole Republican Party. But unfortunately, no compromise can be reached on this or anything else if President Obama just refuses to show up.
I hope he enjoys his meetings with Iran and Syria. But vastly greater benefits will accrue to the U.S. if the president would make a deal with the GOP in the House and Senate.