Of course, public comments and private negotiations are often two radically different things. But in today’s political climate, public comments resonate and shape the responses of political actors, causing recalcitrants to dig in even more. Maybe the likely deal on a continuing resolution to fund the government through September leads to a deal on taxes and entitlements — or maybe it leads to more “my way or the highway” posturing. Or maybe it puts increasing pressure on Boehner and McConnell to use the debt limit later this summer as the one remaining bludgeon to accomplish their policy goals.
The turmoil in Republican ranks reflected in the comments about the Republican National Committee report on the state of the party and in the back-and-forth generated by the Conservative Political Action Conference suggests many prominent figures in the party are open to real change, which includes pragmatic efforts to move from tax cutting and austerity obsessions to real problem-solving. But those prominent figures are countered by the Limbaughs, Palins and Cruzes who are in the never surrender camp.
In an ideal world, Corker, Warner and Sens. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; and Mike Johanns, R-Neb., among others, cobble together a deal that phases in the discretionary budget cuts and provides far more flexibility in their implementation, creates another tranche of deficit reduction of at least a trillion dollars over the next 10 years via a new budget resolution with reconciliation instructions to committees to do tax and entitlement changes to meet the targets and includes a new robust infrastructure package both to get the economy moving and to repair crumbling bridges and water mains and expand the knowledge and power grids — through borrowing at what is now near zero or even negative interest rates!
That package, along with an immigration overhaul and gun overhaul, should be in the no-brainer category. But the odds may still be with the no-brainers who want to thwart compromise and push confrontation.
Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.