WASHINGTON – Rep. Paul Ryan’s bid to break an increasingly bitter stalemate that resulted in the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government appears to have landed with a thud with some fellow conservatives.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and Republican nominee for vice president in 2012 proposed that the warring factions settle their differences by engaging in a discussion over entitlement and tax reform. That, he hinted, could provide an escape route toward adopting a stopgap spending measure known as a continuing resolution and raising the debt limit.
Ryan said the current situation “doesn’t have to be another crisis.”
“It could be a breakthrough,” he said. “We have an opportunity here to pay down the national debt and jump-start the economy, if we start talking, and talking specifics, now. To break the deadlock, both sides should agree to common-sense reforms of the country’s entitlement programs and tax code.”
Negotiators, he suggested, could also take another look at the spending limits imposed under the Budget Control Act of 2011 commonly known as the sequester, a package President Obama and his fellow Democrats are looking to change.
“If Mr. Obama decides to talk, he’ll find that we actually agree on some things,” Ryan wrote. “For example, most of us agree that gradual, structural reforms are better than sudden, arbitrary cuts. For my Democratic colleagues, the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act are a major concern. And the truth is, there’s a better way to cut spending. We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs.”
Even if the White House accepts his terms – a highly unlikely proposition – Ryan likely won’t experience much success with his own party, not so much because of what the plan calls for but for what it doesn’t include – defunding Obamacare, the healthcare law that requires all Americans to retain health insurance.
The Ryan package fails to mention what has been the primary reason behind the current standoff – the GOP’s desire to defund the Affordable Care Act or, at least, postpone its implementation for a year. In order to achieve that goal, a substantial number of Republican lawmakers have exhibited a willingness to shut down vital governmental functions until Democrats acquiesce. They also are threatening to block congressional approval of an increase in the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt ceiling. Failure to act on that proposal by Oct. 17 could result in the U.S. defaulting on at least some of its obligations.
Michael Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action, a sister organization to the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, told reporters that “this is a fight about ObamaCare” and that the attention of Republicans and conservatives “needs to be back on ObamaCare and not on other ways out of this situation.”
Needham rejected the idea of a so-called “grand bargain” to fix the economy – an effort that has failed in the past.
“Washington has a notoriously short attention span,” he said. “The reason the federal government is shut down is because President Obama and his allies continue to protect a failed law that is hurting the country. Their reckless behavior should not breathe life into misguided dreams for a grand bargain, which everyone understands is Washington-speak for undermining the sequester, increasing taxes and accumulating debt. Congress should ensure not another dime of taxpayer money is spent on Obamacare.”