Obama, not Ryan, “spurned” deficit commission
Politico ran an interesting story on Wednesday about how Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee and now Mitt Romney’s running mate, “spurned” the Simpson-Bowles commission, which was put together by President Barack Obama to find a solution to the United States’ debt and long-term entitlement issues:
he commission has lived larger in mythology after its demise than it ever did while doing its work. Partisans and commentators on all sides — and in particular centrists and business leaders — hail the efforts of co-chairmen Alan Simpson, a Republican, and Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, as exactly what Washington needs more of.
And they cite the inability of its recommendations — a mix of spending cuts and increased revenue proposals — to gain momentum as deplorable evidence that Obama and GOP leaders won’t put the national interest in solving the budget crisis over their own narrow partisan concerns.
Now the saintly, do-good aura that surrounds Simpson-Bowles presents an awkward challenge for Mitt Romney and his running mate. Romney is pitching Ryan as a problem solver who wants to use his command of the budget to forge bipartisan deals to solve the nation’s fiscal crisis.
But in reality, Ryan, according to the recollection of some commission members and staffers, was a key part of the dynamic that undermined the commission and allowed the triumph of partisan and ideological loyalties over a budget deal.
Under its charter, the commission needed a supermajority of 14 members in order to give its formal endorsement to any recommendations. Ryan joined six other members — the dissenters came from both parties — in voting against the final proposal, with 11 members in favor.
Skeptics say this record — combined with Ryan’s emphatically ideological approach as chairman of the House Budget Committee — undermines Romney’s claim in an interview on this weekend’s “60 Minutes” broadcast that Ryan “is a man who’s dedicated the last 14 years working in Washington in ways that are not highly partisan or political but are instead focused on the right course for America.”
Oh, really? Don’t get me wrong. I understand that Ryan probably didn’t agree with many of the positions put forward. While the Simpson-Bowles recommendations would have to be approved by Congress, remember that President Obama opposed the recommendations of the deficit committee. Whether or not you agree with a president, his endorsement can still go a long way in the halls of Congress. But when the Simpson-Bowles plan came up for a vote, it was soundly defeated; however, it did receive more votes than Obama’s proposed budget.
But the narrative of the Politico story isn’t echoed by Erskine Bowles, a Democrat who co-chaired the the commission. In fact, Bowles explained last year during an event at the University of North Carolina — the same event where he called Ryan “amazing,” “honest,” and sincere — that President Obama was largely to blame for the failure of the commission’s recommendations to gain steam:
Interestingly, it’s the Obama campaign that doesn’t want to talk about Simpson-Bowles, not the other way around. Via Doug Powers, Team Obama is asking organizers for the upcoming presidential debates to refrain from asking about the Simpson-Bowles plan.
None of this leads one to come to the conclusion from the Politico piece. Simpson-Bowles, while not perfect, was a plan that did merit debate. At least it was something, much like Ryan’s Path to Prosperity, that started the discussion on lowering budget deficits and reforming crippling entitlements. Unfortunately, President Obama hasn’t put forward anything close to a real plan that deals with these matters.