Say It Ain’t So, Paul!

We’ve been hearing rumblings for a while about the negotiations between Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and Paul Ryan on next year’s spending. The Democrats hate the sequester, which was flawed (mainly because the spending constraints fall too heavily on the military) but nevertheless was one of the signal Republican achievements of recent years. The sequester represents the only perceptible check on the growth of federal spending within memory.

But rumor has it that Ryan is willing to give up the spending limits imposed by the sequester. Cato’s Dan Mitchell writes:

[T]he GOP appears willing to give away the sequester’s real and meaningful spending restraint and replace that fiscal discipline with a package of gimmicks and new revenues. …

You may be thinking to yourself that even the “stupid party” couldn’t be foolish enough to save Obama from his biggest defeat, but check out these excerpts from a Wall Street Journal report.

Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), chief negotiators for their parties, are closing in on a deal… At issue are efforts to craft a compromise that would ease across-the-board spending cuts due to take effect in January, known as the sequester, and replace them with a mix of increased fees and cuts in mandatory spending programs.

But the supposed cuts wouldn’t include any genuine entitlement reform. And there would be back-door tax hikes.

Officials familiar with the talks say negotiators are stitching together a package of offsets to the planned sequester cuts that would include none of the major cuts in Medicare or other entitlement programs that Mr. Ryan has wanted… Instead, it would include more targeted and arcane measures, such as increased fees for airport-security and federal guarantees of private pensions.

But the package may get even worse before the ink is dry.

Democrats on Thursday stepped up their demands in advance of the closing days of negotiations between Ms. Murray and Mr. Ryan. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) brought a fresh demand to the table by saying she wouldn’t support any budget deal unless in included or was accompanied by an agreement to renew expanded unemployment benefits that expire before the end of the year—which would be a major threat to any deal.

Great. So we give up the sequester spending levels, and now the debate is over whether unemployment benefits should be extended for yet another year. Stay tuned; but so far, this isn’t looking good.

Patty Murray, by the way, is generally considered to be one of the stupidest people in Washington. You would think that once in a while, Republicans would be able to out-negotiate a Democrat as dim-witted as Murray.


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