The Weird Politics of Simpson-Bowles

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Steve Benen is amused at renewed conservative love for the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan:

Perhaps now would be a good time to note a relevant detail that’s gone largely down the memory hole: Republicans used to hate the Simpson-Bowles plan. In fact, the reason it’s called the “Simpson-Bowles plan” instead of the “Simpson-Bowles commission plan” is that GOP officials on the panel refused to support it, guaranteeing the commission’s failure. Indeed, how many of the Republican lawmakers on the panel agreed to endorse the chairmen’s plan? Zero.

Actually, I don’t think that’s quite true. The Republican House contingent all voted no, but the Republican senators supported the plan. It failed because it needed a supermajority of 14 out of 18 votes, but failed to win support from three Republicans and four Democrats.

But this doesn’t spoil Steve’s point much. The House Republicans were the tea party contingent, the ones who represent the base of the party these days. And they refused to support the plan because they refused to support anything that included so much as a nickel of revenue increases. This remains firm Republican orthodoxy to this day, which means that anything like Simpson-Bowles remains dead to this day.

On the campaign trail, claiming that “President Obama ignored the report of his own commission!” might be a good applause line among the muppets1, but the plan Obama did support during the debt ceiling fracas last year was actually more right-wing friendly than Simpson-Bowles was. And Republicans erupted in revolt against that too. There’s just no there there as long as Republicans remain stuck in holding-their-breath-til-their-faces-turn-blue mode.

1According to Greg Smith, this is how Goldman Sachs directors refer to clients that they consider gullible and naive. Since this is how Republican leaders seem to view their own supporters, it seems appropriate here too.

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