Are you tired of this endless budget debate, with all the continuing resolutions and threats of government shutdowns and memories of Newt Gingrich's big fat head in 1995? Well too bad, mister. It's going to last for almost two more years, Politico's Richard E. Cohen reports.
Congress is working on yet another two-week spending deal that will keep the government running while lawmakers figure out a a budget for this fiscal year, which has just over six months left in it. But debate over the 2011 budget is going to soon merge with a vote on raising the debt ceiling in coming months, which will then bleed into the Fiscal 2012 budget debate, which will spill over into appropriations bills next summer. And the weird thing? Republicans don't think this dragged out debate will be tiring and tedious. They're actually pretty psyched about it. Because they think it's their best hope to beat President Obama.
Republicans want the 2012 campaign to focus on the question of just how big the government should be. The GOP is transforming from a party that's "fanatically anti-Obama" to one that's "fanatically anti-spending," Cohen's colleagues Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen report. The Tea Party proved to be a moderating force on "the bombastic voices of Palin, Beck and Rush Limbaugh," who were dominating Republican politics, Vandehei and Allen argue. And the freshmen congressmen they elected weren't sated by sweet committee assignments--they actually care about cutting the size of the government. A congressional aide said they Tea Party members are like "ravenous dogs"--but all that foaming at the mouth might make the GOP more appealing to independents, because it will shift focus away from divisive social issues.
The strategy will be felt across the country at the state and local level. Take Michigan, for instance: Republican state senators have declared "financial martial law," granting "broad new powers to emergency managers who oversee financially struggling cities and schools, including the authority to void union contracts and remove elected officials," the Michigan Daily Tribune's Chad Selweski reports. In January, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder called for the process of appointing emergency managers to be changed so the state can impose an early intervention on struggling cities and districts. Snyder is facing protests from unions, much like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other GOP governors seeking to curb union power.
Republican leaders are now pushing presidential candidates with budget-cutting bona fides, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, and will back them with massive amounts of campaign cash. And they're hoping social conservatives like Mike Huckabee will stay out of the race.
Democrats' worst nightmare, a party official told Vandehei and Allen, is a weak economy combined with a Republican nominee “who is competent and is able to offer a comprehensive vision of economic change.”