Share

Opinion: Columnists

In fiscal talks, a trench the GOP can defend

By |

Start calling it "Simpson-Bowles-Benson."

The first two, Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, are fairly well-known among the chattering class as the co-chairs of the President's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

The commission was birthed by executive order and its 18 members met for the first time on April 27, 2010. Six members from the House, six from the Senate and six named by the president, along with the commission's executive director.

By November, when the commission's blueprint was unveiled, only 11 of the 18 voted thumbs up on the final product. The hope had been that if the recommendations had garnered 80 percent of the commission's votes, Congress would adopt the final product. It didn't. So off to the dusty shelf reserved for failed blue ribbon commissions, which is right above the box in which the Ark of the Covenant was stored at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Until Townhall.com's chief political correspondent, Guy P. Benson, found it there late last week. Benson does have a little journalistic Indiana Jones in him, having been the scribbler to ferret out that it was Clint who was the mystery guest last August in Tampa, Fla. But his mission to find and revive Simpson-Bowles was the product of a much more difficult hunt: How to get the Republicans out of the corner into which the president had painted them.

The president doesn't appear to want a deal, but rather a political Waterloo for the GOP. Whether he is still angry at Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell for the humbling elections of 2010 or whether he is looking for a pre-emptive crushing of any Tea Party 2.0, the president has been maneuvering to put the blame on the GOP no matter what happens.

Obama's actions only become rationale if he wants to go over the "cliff" and he wants the Congress to refuse to raise the debt limit in the spring. In other words, if murder must be done, the president has placed the gun in the GOP's hands and elicited from them enough angry talk to get a jury to convict.

So now comes Benson with a simple, elegant proposal: Cleave to the president's commission. Bind yourself to Simpson-Bowles, GOP, and move not a bit from its provisions.

Gather all the Republican representatives and senators into one room and chant, "Simpson-Bowles!" Sing out "Simpson-Bowles" in the morning, at lunch and after dinner. Mandate that Simpson-Bowles be mentioned in every speech, op-ed and cable-land appearance.

Simpson-Bowles isn't the wisest course, but it is much less bad than the president's nonplan and the cliff itself. When the president comes round for the debt ceiling hike, offer it up along with the restoration of sane levels of defense spending and be done with the issues until fall 2014, when round three of the great tax-and-spending battle is fought.

The GOP won round one with a knock-down in 2010. The president and his party won round two on points, but Speaker Boehner was still standing. There are going to be as many rounds as it takes to put all three power centers under one control.

Until then, Simpson-Bowles-Benson is the best bet.

Regarding Mr. Benson: Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. Yes, he and Mary Katharine Ham (@mkhammer) are the regular guest-hosts on my radio show, so I may be less than objective. But the idea Benson put forward has rocketed around the virtual world and into the GOP caucus for a good reason: It is a defensible line on high rhetorical ground. The GOP should take it.

Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.

View article comments Leave a comment