The GOP has figured out a way to try and save face and make political lemon into lemonaide for its Tea Party movement base in the wake of Tuesday’s New York 26 election rebuke which saw the defeat of the early-front-runner Republican blamed on the party’s embracing Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as it now exists:
Refuse to raise the debt limit unless it gets Medicare cuts. I don’t usually agree with political definitions in case like this but, yes, it does indeed sound as if the country is being held political “hostage” so Republican leaders can get what they want for their party’s base since it’s now clear it can’t be gained either via a vote in Congress or in the 2012 elections. If this precedent works, then expect this to be the way both parties will operate from now on:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) just made it clear in a briefing with reporters on the Hill: They’re going to hold the government’s debt limit as hostage in order to back their way out of this political tight spot.
How? McConnell just announced he will not support raising the debt ceiling unless big Medicare cuts are part of the deal. Translation: Unless Democrats get us off the hook by agreeing to deep Medicare cuts (meaning Democrats can no longer attack Republicans for wanting to eliminate Medicare), then we’re going to force the federal government into default on its debt.
What if McConnell extracted substantial other cuts from the White House to achieve the GOP’s spending cuts goal? No matter, McConnell says. If Medicare cuts aren’t part of the deal, then no dice on the debt ceiling — U.S. economy and world financial system be damned.
It’s as stark as that. And the decision for Democrats is equally stark: Do you negotiate with hostage-takers?
The Republicans are counting on one many analysts say: if the debt limit is not raised it will be blamed on Barack Obama. On the other hand, polls increasingly show that America’s middle is souring on Republicans who came to power talking about jobs but who on a federal level and in states around the country seem more interested in enacting conservative ideological agendas.
It also will not help GOPers if Democrats ramp up their ads and clamor elsewhere about how the GOP seems intent to downsize Medicare of eliminate it as we now know it. A true two-party agreement on Medicare cuts is one thing. Threatening not to raise the debt ceiling and in effect holding American and international financial catastrophe over the heads of the country is another.
Balloon Juice’s Ann Laurie writes: “The only effective response, of course, is ‘We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.