Contrary to expectations, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and former George W. Bush OMB director and current Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) will make it tougher rather than easier for Mitt Romney to make the federal budget into an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. Not only could either one make it all but impossible for the GOP to use the budget as a weapon against Obama, it could force Romney to defend past GOP budget policies.
And former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty will be of no help to Romney whatsoever when it comes to the federal deficit and national debt.
As I explain in my "Fiscal Fitness" column from today's Roll Call, that's why these three, which are the ones mentioned most often these days as potential Romney vice presidential selections, are actually less rather than more likely to be on the Republican ticket.
After a week off for...well, it's not really clear why other than to campaign Congress took the first week in May off...the House and Senate are returning to Washington this week and immediately getting back to their old tricks when it comes to the federal budget -- doing something that is purely symbolic, has no chance whatsoever of being enacted, and is bad policy to boot. Other than that, it's a great idea.
As far as we know now (Would anyone be surprised if something else popped up?), the most egregiously silly thing that's going to happen on the budget this week is the House's consideration of what House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is calling a "reconciliation" bill.
This bill would cut $78 billion in spending in fiscal 2013 and cancel the $90 billion spending cut that was triggered when the anything-but-super-committee failed to agree on a deficit reduction plan late last November. The bill also includes an additional $180 billion in spending cuts over the next nine years.
Several things need to be noted about this bill.
One of the most interesting aspects of the fiscal 2013 budget debate is how the GOP is extolling the virtues of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) but, while taking credit for it passing the House is only talking about his budget plan in the most general terms.
In fact, as Congress gets back to work this week after two weeks back in the district for Easter and Passover, watch closely as Republicans talk about how "courageous" Ryan is for taking the lead on reducing the deficit while it stays as far away as possible from any discussion of the specifics spending reductions and tax cuts.
The reality, however, is just the opposite: When it comes to the budget Ryan is far more of a coward than anything else.
It wasn't at all courageous for Ryan to propose tax cuts and deep spending reductions that only House Republicans would approve. That's the federal budget equivalent of throwing raw meet to piranhas and then saying that you deserve credit for feeding them what they want to eat.
CG&G alum Gordon Adams had a good piece published in Time magazine's Battleland Blog ("Where military intelligence is not a contradiction in terms") about the phony debate on military spending House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) tried to create with his budget resolution.
As Gordon points out, according to Ryan, falling Pentagon spending by any measure -- real, nominal, imaginary, whatever -- is always a bad thing. Never mind what the generals who run the military say and pay no mind to the strategy behind the numbers or the threat for which the U.S. is preparing. Apparently, we're all going to hell and the country is doomed if DOD has less to spend.
I've always been amused at the ability of congressional Republicans to take what the generals and admirals say as gospel when it confirms what the GOP wants to do but to do what Ryan did -- dismiss it out of hand -- when those same military leaders say something different than what they want to have said.
As I explain at the beginning of my weekly Roll Call column, I resisted the incredibly strong urge to talk about Etch A Sketch federal budgeting and instead discussed one of the most ridiculous, lazy, and absurd (Get the picture?) reasons supporters of the budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) say its valuable: It moves the U.S. back to the historical averages for both spending and revenues.
Honestly, saying that historical averages are meaningful in any way for what should be done now or in the future is just nonsense.
Ryan's Historical Averages Are Irrelevant to Budget Debate
By Stan Collender
Roll Call Contributing Writer
March 27, 2012, Midnight