Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday Question for Conservatives

Suppose that Republicans take the White House and Senate while retaining the House next year. What are the major legislative accomplishments you would expect by the 2014 midterm elections?


  1. It depends on whether the war on Iran is started with or without a Congressional declaration. If the latter, then it counts as a legislative accomplishment.

  2. Depends on whether the filibuster is curbed. If not, nothing substantial.

  3. Deficit-neutral tax reform seems likely.

  4. I think the deficit-neutral tax reform will come about no matter the results of the 2012 election. If Obama's smart, he'll push for it now, to bolster his chances for reelection.

    Obama's tax policy has been politically self destructive. Ignoring tax reform for 2 years, and heading into last November's election with that uncertainty hanging over the electorate's head, and then signing off on the Bush Tax Cuts a few weeks following that election?

    That was all just poisonous. You can't damage yourself politically before the election, then sell the farm and dispirit your base following that election. That's just political incompetence.

    If Obama doesn't sign off on sensible tax reform between now and election day, then he'll quite rightly be ejected from office, and he may anyway.

    After November 2012, when control flips, I'd expect the Senate to actually pass a budget, as required by law and their Constitutional oath.

  5. Anon,

    You seem quite taken by the whole budget thing -- why do you think it's a very big deal?

    (Also, a nitpick - Congress doesn't have a Constitutional oath. It's their own invention; only the president has a Constitution-required oath).

    I'd put heavy money on Couves and Anon being wrong, BTW; I'd be very surprised if a unified GOP government does deficit-neutral tax reform.

  6. I agree with Jonathan. What about the actions of the Republicans convinces you they are interested in deficit neutral tax reform? I guess they talk about that sort of thing, but is there any evidence they actually *do* that sort of thing?

  7. Lower corporate tax rate. Mandate e-verify. If the economy is still sluggish I predict most of the conservatives now advocating tight money fed policies will turn 180 degrees.

  8. Actually, Mr. Bernstein, the only outliers would be those who think it anything but strange that a governing body would break the law and its Constitutional oath, for several years running, in not producing a budget.

    And yes, the honorables swear an oath to uphold the Constitution.

    This is part of the reason the public has been finding the Left unfit to govern, last election and presumably in a year's time. These things do matter. And following next election, I'd expect the Senate to actually produce budgets. Not that they'll be any good, but they'll at least be produced and argued over.

    And failure to produce a budget is of a piece with the failure to produce tax policy. The 2 are related. The Left has been constipated on both counts, for some years, and it's killing them. And the final political failure on tax policy came when Obama signed off on the Bush Tax Cuts, after ignoring the issue for those years.

    You can't whimper about issues, while doing nothing about them. That just means your opposition will eventually produce something to fill that vacuum. That's why I'd expect Obama to sign off on tax reform, much as he signed off on the Bush Tax Cuts (assuming he still wants to get reelected, that is).

  9. The constitution requires that Congress, beginning with the House, appropriates funds. The budget document can be a continuing resolution, a one-year budget, a monthly budget, or whatever the House and Senate can pass and get signed by the President. The document type for appropriating funds is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.

  10. Anon,

    Ah, on the nitpick: it is in fact an oath about the Constitution -- but not an oath mandated by the Constitution. Fair enough.

    And: really? The budget resolution is...well, you just seem to be elevating it far, far, far beyond what it is. I mean, the House failed to pass individual Approps bills by the deadline this year (as Dem Houses did the last four years), and didn't even do a full-year CR (again, equal to what the last Dem House did) -- that's just as much a violation of the Budget Act as not passing a budget resolution, and I can't see getting particularly worked up about either. I mean, a budget resolution isn't even a law. Why does it strike you as a big deal?

  11. Not passing a budget contributes to uncertainty and, as we’ve seen, can lead to political instability. It’s not the biggest issue out there, but it is significant. And as anon points out, it just shows a lack of interest in governing…

    I also agree with anon about the political dynamics of the moment. The primary problem for Obama and the Dems is obviously the bad economy. Their secondary problem is that they’ve largely followed policies consistent with those of the last administration. I don’t think many people associate Obama with “change” at this point.

    There’s now a consensus in favor of tax reform and budget cuts. Obama seems to be doing a skillful job in pivoting towards these policies, but he’s clearly lost the initiative to the tea party. He will try to portray himself as a reasonable conciliator while Republicans will say that he wasted the first three years of his Presidency.

  12. Couves,

    I'm not really disagreeing that it's a poor practice; I'm disagreeing that it's a big deal.

    As for uncertainty: I strongly disagree. Given that budget resolutions are not binding and that it hasn't been unusual at all for previous Congresses to basically ignore the budget resolution later in the year, I don't see how passing a budget resolution would reduce uncertainty. I particularly don't see how the Senate passing a budget resolution this year would have reduced uncertainty at all, especially since the House started the year by changing its rules so that it could more easily work around a final (that is, a compromise) budget.

    Again, I'm fine with the point that the Senate at some level "should" pass a budget -- but really at a loss to understand the point that it's a big deal that they didn't.

    (Or that it has any effect on elections, an empirical claim which is certainly wrong).

  13. Oh, I'm not much interested in your semantic arguments and formulations, Mr. Bernstein.

    This is sorta like our previous discussion about the Federal Reserve. You averred that the Fed has absolutely nothing to do with election results, and I pointed out that it could, especially with a president's help in elevating it as an issue. Those 700 demonstrators arrested this weekend help as well. ;-)

    For the Senate to violate the law and break its Contitutional oath in not passing a budget is very much similar to the Fed issue. All politics is local, as we know. The Fed is an issue where it's an issue, as is the Senate's budgeting failures. It'll of course have some impact on a Bayh last cycle, and a Webb this cycle, in dropping out of the race. A Conrad will also be affected, although scandal and ObamaCare et al also did for him. Baucus will also get his fingers singed, when his number comes up. And then there's the rest of the dozen vulnerables.

    Again, this is one of those issues in which the 3rd phase is most critical, and arriving at that 3rd phase requires a nexus of man-moment. And it requires the Left's help... they have to be willing if unwitting participants, to get to that 3rd phase, wherein the issue is ripe and attackable.

    But of course, even absent any 3rd phase engagements, that certainly doesn't absolve us of the obligation to point out irresponsible government, and the failure to follow regular order and the law, in producing a budget. Your distractive point seems to be: How much does that irresponsibility bear on the recent electoral shellackings? Hard to quantify that, but not hard to qualify, much like the signing of the Bush Tax Cuts has resulted in political weakness in the Left's coalition, so will the failure to produce budgets have that same effect. It's a corrosive.

    How much of these electoral shellackings is a result of the electorate's collective judgment that the Left is unfit to govern? Again, it's hard to quantify that, but certainly not hard to qualify. And like our previous Fed argument, in a couple weeks you may be agreeing with my point here. ;-)

    The model seems to be that the Left is going to stagnate completely, fight a rear guard action, propose nothing of consequence, lose, and then be forced to sign what they once cursed. SEE: Bush Tax Cuts. I'd expect the same script in the coming year from Obama.

    It's sad, and it's nothing at all proactive or responsible, and it does nothing to promote confidence and foster economic growth... but that's the path I'd predict here.

    So, we'll get significant tax reform, with our without Obama, and with or without a change in control in the US Senate. It's only a matter of whether Obama decides to work a fait accompli into his reelection attempts. That's the politically smart play, but he's not proven very smart to this point.

  14. Jonathan,

    If Democrats had done their jobs and passed a 2011 budget, I think Republicans would have just left it alone. But forcing the new Republican Congress to pass a continuing resolution was instead seen as a challenge: Would Republicans just passively agree to continuing the Democrats’ reckless spending, or will they do what voters sent them to Congress for? Of course this is a political question and the Republicans could have responded to the issue differently, but that’s the whole point -- the Democrats’ inaction produced uncertainty.


    If you’re going to be referring to previous exchanges on previous blog posts, I think it’s time to choose a name. Just a suggestion :-)

  15. And I guess I'm not seeing this alleged parallel between the US House this year and the US Senate's multi year budgeting irresponsibility, in violation of law.

    I seem to recall the US House passed a comprehensive budget plan, very soon after taking over the House. You remember the Ryan Plan, don't you? Mr. Ryan was caught pushing Grandma over the cliff in her wheelchair, as we know. So it was a fairly comprehensive budget, and certainly followed a governing process in alignment with what we'd expect of a responsible governance, unlike the US Senate's shirking of their responsibility.


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