Obama’s Dwindling Budget Choices…

 

President Obama today confirmed what most conservatives already knew…that he will never lead on any subject, but is more than ready to be the person to obstruct any real reform and change that the country needs.

In a “Statement of Administration Policy,” the White House said that it will veto the one-week measure if it passes in Congress, saying that the stopgap measure is “a distraction” from a long-term solution to the budget impasse.

“This bill is a distraction from the real work that would bring us closer to a reasonable compromise for funding the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011 and avert a disruptive Federal Government shutdown that would put the Nation’s economic recovery in jeopardy,” the statement reads.

The statement noted that the administration would accept a “clean” short-term measure (one that does not change the status quo of the past short-term funding bill) while negotiations continue, but, if presented with the GOP-led one-week measure, “the President will veto it.”

This is not a surprise.  In truth, Democrats have been trying to find ways to avoid any and all cuts.  Even their compromise for $33 Billion in cuts is not real.  First of all, Senate Democrats never accepted that number.  Second, Democrats refuse to pass $33 billion in specific cuts…such as in programs like Planned Parenthood and the Environmental Protection Agency, which have long been included in the Republican bill.  Democrats are raising major objections to these so-called ‘policy riders’.  The irony is that Democrats used many, many more policy riders in their past budgets than Republicans have offered in this one.  What goes around comes around.

What is even more amazing is what is contained in this bill the President plans on vetoing.  The temporary measure would fund the Defense Department for the rest of fiscal year 2011.  With the proposed veto, our military would stop getting paid in the immediate future (the Defense Dept. today clarified, and said they would be paid for the next week…but not after that).

Frankly, this was an obvious political trap, and Obama fell for it.  Instead of pushing Congressional Democrats to pass a complete budget, he now has to veto a bill that will not only shut down the government, but will threaten the financial security of our troops.  Obama says this is unacceptable…but apparently is willing to accept it.  When the media finds the endless military families who are struggling to feed their children, who will the public blame:  Republicans, who have been set up to be blamed, or Obama, who finally struck down the bill with the veto?

At this point, the ball is the Democrats’ court.  They could pass the bill, admit defeat, and move on to the larger battle on the 2012 budget. They could choose to pass some version of the House’s current temporary stop-gap, though that contains many of the cuts conservatives want in any case.   Or, they could force a shutdown, and roll the dice in the hopes that Republicans would get the majority of the blame.

I feel that everyone involved would be hurt by a shutdown, the President included.  This is not totally analogous to the situation from 1995.  At that time, conservatives were calling for a government shutdown, almost using it as a rallying cry.  This time, Republican leaders have been careful to avoid such rhetoric, and have gone out of their way to say they don’t want a shutdown.  That may make all the difference in the world.

This is a high stakes game of poker, to be sure.  Republicans have little to lose and much to gain in this process.  More and more, it looks like even if a shutdown happens, the public will broadly blame ‘the Beltway’ for their usual childish behavior.  That would hurt Republicans, but not give any special advantage to Democrats.  However, if Obama takes any significant blame, Republicans in general may be hurt, but potential 2012 candidates will use the failure to show that Obama is not the adult he portrays himself to be.