Yesterday we began a three part series on false equivalence, and how our hypocrisy is not like theirs. Today we’re going to focus on the deficit reduction task force from 2010.
Deficit Reduction Task Force of 2010
Back in 2010, after struggling fruitlessly to resolve the deficit reduction issue, the Senate proposed, in a resolution, the creation of an eighteen-member deficit-reduction task force. The idea was that the task force would implement a “fast track” procedure, under which the task force’s recommendations would be put to a straight up-or-down vote by both branches, with no amendments allowed. The resolution was coauthored by Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, and had substantial bipartisan support. In fact, it had the support of Republican leaders like John McCain and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said this about it on the Senate floor:
We must address the issue of entitlement spending now before it is too late. As I have said many times before, the best way to address the crisis is the Conrad-Gregg proposal, which would provide an expedited pathway for fixing these profound long-term challenges. This plan would force us to get debt and spending under control. It deserves support from both sides of the aisle. The administration has expressed a desire to take up entitlement reform, and given the debt that its budget would run up, the need for reform has never been greater. So I urge the administration, once again, to support the Conrad-Gregg proposal. This proposal is our best hope for addressing the out-of-control spending and debt levels that are threatening our nation’s fiscal future.
Some of the centrist Democrats in Congress prevailed upon President Obama to back the task force idea, which he subsequently endorsed. And that, my friends, was the end of its useful life in the Senate.
Because, on January 26, the Senate blocked the resolution that so many of its own members on both sides of the aisle had co-sponsored. In the end, fifty-three senators supported it, but it could not garner the sixty votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Among those who voted to sustain the filibuster and kill the resolution were Mitch McConnell – who had not only endorsed the idea, but endorsed the idea that the President should back it as well – and John McCain, who had co-sponsored the resolution. McCain was joined in opposition by six other original cosponsors, all Republicans.
This was the first time living memory that cosponsors of a resolution conspired to kill their own idea. Why did they do so? Because President Barack Obama was for it, and its passage might gain him political credit.
And that, my friends, is how the Republican Party works in the modern era. They are so devoted to keeping President Obama from receiving any political credit that they would rather, as the proverb goes, cut off their nose to spite their face.
 Credit goes to Thomas Mass and Norman Orenstein’s It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism for bringing this example to my attention.