Obama 2014 Budget Shows Adminstration is Trying To Divide GOP -- And It's Working
I decided not to comment immediately on the Obama 2014 released last week because I thought the usual instant micro analysis of what the president proposed was likely to be largely besides the point..
The Obama 2014 budget has far less to do with what was proposed than almost any other presidential budget in history. It's real purpose...and value...comes from understanding it as a document designed to drive a wedge between House and Senate Republicans.
To a certain extent it's hard to understand why more of the people who comment on the federal budget -- that is, almost all of Washington -- didn't get the fact that the individual proposals in the Obama plan weren't the big story. Regardless of the reasons for it being so late (some were legitimate, some were not), a president's budget that's sent to Congress more than two months after the statutory deadline and after the House and Senate have already adopted their own budget resolutions should never be analyzed in the same way as other presidential budgets have been. It simply won't -- or can't -- have the same micro impact on the budget debate even if it was going to declared dead on arrival anyway.
But the failure to creatively review the Obama budget wasn't all that surprising because (1) looking at individual spending and revenue proposals immediately after the budget is released is what has always been done, and (2) this is what gives interest groups their best ability to raise money by showing their members how aggressively they're defending their interests.
With the perspective of the five-days that have passed since the Obama FY14 budget was released, here's what I see.
As part of its so-called charm offensive, the White House clearly is using its budget proposal to appeal to Senate Republicans and get them at least to use more moderate language when talking about the administration. That would have been far more difficult had the president not included the chained CPI proposal in the budget, which seemed to be the price of admission and political litmus test for Republican senators.
The chance of Republican Senators agreeing with the White House on much of anything are still small, but they are now definitely greater than the they were before the Obama budget was released.
The divide and conquer strategy already seems to be working. I've heard from several House GOP staff the past few days that there is a great deal of anger in the House Republican caucus about the willingness of Senate Republicans to talk with the administration on tax and spending matters.
The White House also got the unexpected bonus of it's proposals dividing the House GOP. The statement from Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, that the president's CPI proposal should be rejected because it cuts Social Security, was almost immediately denounced by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and the Club for Growth.
The Obama CPI proposal was also dismissed out of hand by GOP stalwart Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform because it would result in higher taxes as well as lower mandatory spending.
And I'm not convinced that the CPI proposals put Democrats in as difficult position as has been reported recently. First, it's not going to happen before the 2014 election because the mechanism for it -- a grand bargain on taxes and mandatory spending -- is so unlikely. Second, the president, who is not running for reelection, has proposed something that House and Senate Democrats can -- and will -- denounce and vote against. This will give them the ability to strengthen their pro-Social Security credentials.
Put it together: A divided GOP + independent voters being more inclined to think poorly of Republicans + Democrats who have reconfirmed their support for Social Security.
That makes the impact and import of everything else in and about the Obama 2014 budget decidedly less.