Thursday, April 14, 2005

House Republican leaders need to look up "hubris"

Ralph Z. Hallow of The Washington Times (Apr 14, 2005) reports the new thinking of the House Republican Leadership on the Social Security phase out plan.

”Conservative House Republicans, beset with growing distrust of the Senate, are urging the House leadership to jump ahead of the Senate on Social Security reform and pass a bill based on large personal retirement accounts and no tax increases or cuts in benefits.

”They also want House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and House Majority Tom DeLay to say publicly that any bill sent over from the Senate that doesn't meet all these requirements will not be taken up in the House. […]

“Some Senate conservatives privately agree with their House counterparts that the Social Security debate has swirled out of control and that the situation is now playing into the hands of Democrats, who adamantly oppose partial privatization of Social Security. These conservatives say the only way to save the situation is for the House to pass a private-accounts bill and let the Democrats take the blame for blocking Senate passage.”

As usual, Josh Marshall says it better than I can:

”This would be a smart and gutsy strategy if phase-out were popular. But since every public poll available seems to show that it's not popular at all, it's not immediately clear why letting the Democrats stop this unpopular bill in the senate would necessarily be a bad thing for them. Indeed, common sense would suggest that stopping an unpopular piece of legislation would be something they'd be happy to do.

“For what it's worth, I doubt very much that it would currently be possible to get a phase-out bill through the House at all. But in purely political terms I have little doubt that the Democrats would love to see them try.”

Ed Kilgore of New has an additional comment: "I can barely begin to imagine how much you'd have to borrow--or cut from guaranteed benefits--to pay for this woofer, but we are probably talking about many trillions. I'm sure Josh or Max or somebody will soon enlighten us.

"Now, as Hallow explains, the House GOPers don't actually think their proposal will become law; it's all about shifting blame for failure to serve up this massive free lunch to the Senate and of course, those free-spending Democrats. But somehow, I don't think overt cynicism is much of an excuse for complete irresponsibility."

The only rational way I can see this happening is if the Republican leadership has written off the Social Security phase out bill for this year, and they want to pass something that sets up an agenda they can work off of in future years. Such a bill would give them a focus in the future as they continue to try to eliminate Social Security as a government guaranteed minimum retirement. They can also show that they have done something, and blame the Democrats adn the Senate for failed actions. They may also have new respect for the idea of rallying the base after seeing that Karl rove got Bush reelected by doing that.

The downside for them is the danger for Republican House Members who have to go home and run on a platform of "I voted to eliminate Social Security." But maybe they are remembering the old Goldwater slogan "A Choice, not an echo."

As for "rallying the base", George W. Bush was an unusual candidate. What worked for him may not work for other politicians. If the House tries this Social Security bill, a number of Republican House Members will lose in 2006.


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