On Tuesday, Congressional Republicans and President Obama triumphantly announced a two-year budget deal that will take Congress beyond the 2016 presidential election without the possibility of another government shutdown.
Republicans received higher-than-sequestration-level funding for defense; President Obama got everything else, including funding for Planned Parenthood, entitlement programs, and a pony.
The new budget, according to Business Insider, would “cut spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits,” and raise the debt ceiling through March 2017. The deal also includes provisions penalizing generic drugmakers for increasing prices. In total, the deal would cost an additional $112 billion in fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
President Barack Obama endorsed the deal, with an official telling The Hill, “We urge members of Congress from both parties to take the next step and pass a budget based on this agreement.” Outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said the deal will “clean up the barn a little bit” for incoming presumed Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), an establishment favorite with popular appeal to more conservative segments of the Republican base. Boehner apparently told fellow caucus members he didn’t like the way the budget was done, but, “We can fall into that trap or we can lead.”
For the record, Ryan says he doesn’t like the process either. He’s rather taciturn about the deal altogether, actually, telling CNN, “I’m reserving judgment on this agreement because quite frankly I haven’t seen it yet on paper.” He added, “Under new management, we’re not going to do business like this.” Ryan apparently refused to even tell his fellow Republicans in Congress what he thought of the deal.
But, of course, Ryan has to be celebrating the deal. It leaves him in position to denounce it, or stay neutral, while handing him a non-job for the next two years. Congress has only two Constitutional tools to fight a leftist executive: the power of the purse and impeachment. The second will be unavailing; the first has been repeatedly ruled out of bounds by Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The result: Barack Obama gets what he wants, over and over again.
One of the goals of selecting a new Speaker of the House was to restore the possibility of using the power of the purse to stop the left’s agenda. Now, Ryan won’t have to show his cards. But his silence on the budget tells us what we need to know, just as Boehner’s slap at conservatives on the way out the door tells us everything we need to know about him. Boehner is leaving Congress anyway – he could use the opportunity, with no political risk to himself, to stand up to Obama. He chose to cave. Ryan hasn’t entered the job yet; he could stand up to Obama, with no political risk to himself. He chose to stay silent.
The battle between establishment Republicans and the more conservative Republicans in Congress comes down to a basic question: are Republicans in Congress present to be elected, and to pare away at the leftist agenda only when victory is guaranteed, or are Republicans in Congress elected to fight Democrats, even if it means political risk and cost?
Republicans like Boehner suggest that the goal of Republicans is to keep the country working, that Democrats’ willingness to defund national defense makes government shutdowns damaging and dangerous. More conservative Republicans say that negotiations can’t proceed for a position of weakness: to make clear to Democrats that Republicans are more interested in funding government than Democrats are means to cave to Democrats’ priorities. Politics is a game of chicken, in this view, and if you’re unwilling to ever put the pedal to the metal, you will always lose.
Thus far, the Boehner wing wins, and Paul Ryan’s accession to the Speakership looks unlikely to change anything. After all, it was Ryan who put together the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which raised sequestration caps in 2014 and 2015 and cut military pensions in the process. Talk show host Hugh Hewitt, no Tea Party lackey, wrote at the time, “It is an obscene deal… A vote for this betrayal of the military will haunt every Republican who supports it.” The Senate eventually restored the cuts. But the vote hasn’t haunted Ryan, or anyone else who backed the deal – many of the same folks angry at Ryan for his original budget draft now back Ryan’s Speakership to the hilt.
Ryan’s leadership won’t be tested for another two years under the new Boehner-Obama budget. The Republican establishment thinks this will somehow benefit Republicans, foreclosing the possibility of another debt limit “crisis” before the election – even though Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) establishment-reviled Obamacare shutdown didn’t presage electoral disaster, but a historic 2014 electoral victory. Paul Ryan is the new establishment precious, and he must be protected; the 2016 presidential election must not be subject to the whims of the nutty non-establishment types.
And so we get another two-year budget that spends trillions of dollars, including hundreds of billions of expensive nonsense prioritized by the left. As always. But at least Paul Ryan didn’t have to take a position, and John Boehner gets to leave Congress an establishment hero, signing the checks for President Obama’s legislative priorities.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News, Editor-in-Chief of DailyWire.com, and The New York Times bestselling author, most recently, of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.