First Step In The Budget Debate: GOP Has To Have A Discussion With Itself
The day after Election Day is never a good time to do substantive analysis. The win seems bigger to those who won and those who lost usually are more despondent than the situation warrants.
That's the situation this morning: Democrats are crowing about permanent new demographic shifts in the electorate while the GOP is doing the standard soul searching by those who didn't accomplish what they had hoped.
As far as the federal budget is concerned, this will all change tomorrow when the caffeine induced highs and lows of the election are replaced with the realization that some very big fiscal cliff deadlines are now just seven weeks away.
Here's the situation:
1. At some point very soon -- probably around noon today eastern time -- the mood will change as the House GOP realizes that it is the last bastion when it comes to taxes and spending.
2. The tea party wing of the party has demonstrated quite convincingly that it has the ability in primaries both to nominate its preferred candidates and to put fear in the hearts of those Republicans that defy its wishes by (1) supporting higher revenues, (2) working with Democrats and (3) compromising with the White House.
3. The question is what will the GOP now decide is more important when it comes to budget issues: ideological purity and winning primaries or compromising and having a better chance at winning general elections. The choice may seem obvious to those on the outside but it's not to those inside the GOP.
4. This discussion has to take place almost immediately within the House Republican caucus. Given the closeness of the fiscal cliff, it has to decide within the next 10 days whether it wants to continue to oppose any kind of budget deal or is willing to reach an accommodation.
5. The discussion also has to be between the House and Senate Republicans. The House GOP can't walk the plank on taxes and spending until it knows for sure that Senate Republicans -- who still have the numbers needed to filibuster -- will support what they do. Anything less than a unified effort could be a political disaster for the GOP.
It's not at all clear who can lead this effort.
in the wake of the election, no Republican is in a position to immediately claim the authority to initiate this discussion and get everyone to participate. A potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016 may not want to get involved. It's not clear that the person calling for the internal discussion won't be immediately criticized by everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Grover Norquist.
And given that his home state went for Obama, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus may not have any ability to get GOP House and Senate members to do anything.
House Speaker John Boehner is the obvious possibility. But the tea party wing of the GOP has kept him on a very short leash for the past two years and has never really trusted him. It's not clear that the tea partiers will trust or follow him now.
And all of this has to be worked out by the Monday after Thanksgiving. That's when GOP unity or the lack thereof on the budget will be available for all to see.