- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2013

By clearing the decks of the bipartisan budget deal, some political observers say, the GOP establishment is banking on the idea that giving up ground in the spending battle now will pay off over the long run by allowing Republicans to avoid getting punished for another government shutdown.

According to this scenario, if there’s no government shutdown, Republicans can focus on the 2014 congressional elections and bank on the growing opposition to Obamacare to strengthen their numbers on Capitol Hill. In the best case, they could add the Senate to their control of the House and be in a better position to pursue the spending reductions and limited-government policies that Democrats have thwarted in recent years.

“This was the establishment wing of the party telling the base that elections have consequences,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist. “Because Obamacare is the golden goose for 2014, they don’t want to have anything interfere with making as many gains as possible in Congress — particularly in the Senate.”

SEE ALSO: House budget bargain faces Senate filibuster; Republicans line up to oppose

House Republican leaders and some rank-and-file party members also suggested Thursday that was their grand plan. Speaking on the House floor, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the lead Republican budget negotiator, told his colleagues that “elections have consequences.”

“To really do what we think needs to be done, we are going to have to win some elections,” Mr. Ryan said.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, also said “elections have consequences” and told reporters that House Republicans who pushed nearly 50 times to repeal, defund or dismantle the Affordable Care Act will continue next year to “look for ways to protect the American people from Obamacare.”

It wasn’t all the Republican leadership, either.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican and a tea party favorite who said she opposes the deal on the merits, noted the political calculations favorably.

“The real goal right now is to have an election and get people in to deal with the biggest budget killer there is right now, and that is Obamacare.”

By passing the budget, “we can focus on what people care about, which is that government is hurting them with Obamacare,” she said on Fox News.

The proposal, which easily passed the House, reduces the deficit by $23 billion over 10 years without raising taxes but includes some fee increases and requires new federal workers to pay more for their retirement benefits.

However, it also eliminates two years’ worth of “sequester” cuts that were part of the 2011 Budget Control Act. These additions to Pentagon and non-defense spending amount to $63 billion in the next two years, conservatives note.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, says it will pass. A number of Republicans in that chamber who face primary challenges from the right in next year’s elections, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, have signaled they will oppose the deal.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who also has rivals in his primary, announced late Thursday that he also opposes the bill because it lowers the cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees younger than 62.

“Our men and women in uniform have served admirably during some of our nation’s most troubling times,” Mr. Graham said. “They deserve more from us in their retirement than this agreement provides.”

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