By Bill Crawford
Are House Republicans about to reboot themselves as Super Bowl contenders instead of toilet bowl flushers?
With advice to quit being “stupid” coming from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindel and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and polls showing 64 percent of Americans don’t like them, U..S.. House Republicans are signaling a more constructive approach to governance.
Chief signaler is Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate, and likely contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
“We have to be smart,” Ryan told a National Review Institute audience. “We have to show prudence.”
Out of this grew the strategy to duck a brinkmanship fight over the debt limit. Instead, House Republicans passed a bill to lift the debt ceiling for four months by a vote of 285 to 144 (the Senate followed suit 64 to 34). Polls show Republican positions on cutting spending are popular while threatening government shutdowns and fiscal default are not.
“We’re not interested in shutting the government down,” an ebullient, effusive Ryan said on Meet the Press. He asserted House Republicans are “more than happy” to keep spending at levels currently mandated by temporary continuing resolutions “while we debate how to balance the budget.”
“Whether people like it or not, intended it or not … we have divided government. We have to make it work.”
A less haughty, less uncaring Ryan also said:
“We have to show how our ideas are better at fighting poverty, how our ideas are better at solving healthcare, how our ideas are better at solving the problems people are experiencing in their daily lives. And that’s a challenge we have to rise to and I think we’re up to it.”
“We want to have a safety net, a safety net that is there for the vulnerable, for the poor, for people who cannot help themselves, but we don’t want to have a culture in this country that encourages more dependency that saps and drains the ability of people to make the most of their lives. …We need to target these things to people who actually need them.”
All three Mississippi GOP congressmen joined the strategy shift and voted for suspending the debt ceiling. Not that long ago Rep. Alan Nunnellee proclaimed, “I don’t want to raise the debt ceiling; that is very distasteful to me. So it would be very difficult for me to vote ‘yes’ with any conditions.”
The House bill also halts pay for Congress if the Senate does not pass a budget, a legal responsibility it has not met in four years.
This new strategy will face tough tests immediately. The new sequestration deadline hits March 1. The continuing resolution expires 30 days later.
Pass me another chocolate, Forrest.
Bill Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.