Fearing a loss in the 2014 midterm elections that would hand Democrats control of the House of Representatives, Republicans on Capitol Hill have settled on a unique strategy: let President Barack Obama fail.
Speaker of the House John Boehner told NBC News’ Meet the Press on Sunday that he did not know whether the budget sequester would hurt the economy, but that it was clearly Obama’s fault; and that he was committed to passing a continuing resolution this week to keep the federal government running through the end of the fiscal year in September, essentially approving current levels of spending as set by the Obama administration.
Last week, Senate Republicans attempted to grant President Obama the power to decide on his own how to allocate spending reductions equal to the amount mandated by the sequester–an offer he later refused.
In the 112th Congress, with dozens of freshman members elected through the efforts of the Tea Party, House Republicans passed groundbreaking new budgets that tackled entitlement reform as well as discretionary spending.
Those budgets were simply ignored by the Democrat-controlled Senate, which has failed to pass a budget for four years–but the same budgets were used by Obama and the Democrats to attack Republicans throughout the 2012 election.
In the same way, Democrats–with the help of the media–had portrayed Tea Party Republicans as “terrorists” in 2011 for objecting to a debt ceiling deal that did not include commensurate spending cuts. Though the Tea Party opposition to the eventual Budget Control Act–which created the sequester–has since been partially vindicated, the negative impression of the Tea Party has lingered.
That has convinced Republican leaders to place the burden of leadership on President Obama and the Democrats, with the intent of demonstrating their failure to lead.
However, that strategy prevents the GOP from articulating its own policy agenda. Republican leaders in both houses of Congress seem to have calculated that the White House is so committed to confrontation, and the media is so biased against conservatives, that it is better not to offer any alternative in the hope that blame will eventually settle on the White House.
The hope is that a managed retreat will prevent major political losses that could swing the House in 2014. The result, however, is that Democrats are in complete control of the policy agenda, despite controlling only one of the two houses of Congress.
On issue after issue, the Republican caucuses are reduced to reacting to the proposals of the other side–or capitulating, piece by piece, to policies that they might otherwise have opposed, fearing the confrontations that President Obama so earnestly seeks.