John Boehner has already turned in his resignation, cleaned out his desk, stolen all the stationery he can carry, and appropriated all the pumpkin spice K-Cups from the break room. He can’t wait rid himself of the garbage and nonsense of Congress and spend his golden years marinating in cigarette smoke and lobbyist cash. But as he makes his mad dash for the exit, he’s also trying to do his pre-determined successor as Speaker – Paul Ryan – a huge favor.
Last night, congressional leaders and the White House unveiled the framework of a two-year budget deal that will boost spending $80 billion above sequestration caps, provide an additional $32 billion for the thoroughly unjustifiable Overseas Contingency Operations fund, and push the looming debt-ceiling crisis off until March 2017. As the New York Times explains, this new spending “would be offset by cuts in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits, as well as savings or revenue from an array of other programs, including selling oil from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserves.” Basically, cuts to reimbursements for Medicare doctors will be preserved, and new hurdles to disability benefits would be erected. At the same time, a transfer of money from the Social Security trust fund will shore up the disability program’s finances and avoid a projected 20 percent benefit in 2016.
This deal is being cast as a monumental sellout by conservatives who wanted to try to force painful spending cuts by taking the debt ceiling hostage, but Boehner doesn’t have to worry about them or their bellyaching anymore. Instead, he’s looking to clear a few minefields from Ryan’s path: the deal would eliminate the threats of government shutdowns or debt defaults for the remainder of Barack Obama’s term in office. Those same fights proved lethal to Boehner’s speakership, as he was unable to balance the maximalist demands of his hardline conservative members with the practical demands of responsible governance.
In one of his last acts as Speaker, Boehner is defying the implacable right to buy Ryan lots of time before he has to get into a politically damaging fight over spending. And Ryan obviously understands that he’s being given a valuable gift. But, because politics is incurably stupid and so much of what happens on Capitol Hill is done solely for the sake of appearance, Ryan is attacking Boehner and the House leadership:
"I think the process stinks," said Ryan, who is expected to be elected speaker on Thursday. The Wisconsin Republican added that he hadn't gone through the details of the agreement, which was released Monday night.
"This is not the way to do the people's business," Ryan said. "And under new management we are not going to do the people's business this way. We are up against a deadline — that's unfortunate. But going forward we can't do the people's business. As a conference we should've been meeting months ago to discuss these things to have a unified strategy going forward."
This statement is so wonderfully transparent. Paul Ryan is just sick at the fact that this deal was cooked up through an obscure process that violates every core principle he has regarding honest governance. It’s undemocratic, by gum, and it “stinks” to high heaven! THIS IS NO WAY TO CONDUCT THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS! That being said… “we are up against a deadline” and have to just swallow hard and take it, and “that’s unfortunate.” But oh man he’s so steamed! Next time – NEXT TIME – things are going be different. But definitely next time, not this time, because of the deadline.
Of course, he’s “reserving judgment” on the actual merits of the deal for now because he hasn’t actually seen it yet. For the time being, it’s more important that he give the impression that he’s at odds with the leadership, even if it’s just over procedural matters, because he has to communicate to conservatives that he will not represent a continuation of the Boehner speakership. But now that he’s blasted the deal while also acquiescing to its necessity, he has to hope that it passes so he can smoothly transition into the Speaker’s office and not have to take the job just days before a potentially catastrophic debt default.