Paul Ryan's Non-Compromise Compromise

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 11 2013 6:09 PM

Paul Ryan's Non-Compromise Compromise

Jonathan Chait sees the media returning to its old "narrative" on Paul Ryan, elevating him as the reasonable man who saved the Republicans with a "deal" that's 100 percent composed of things Republicans wanted. By not touching Obamacare -- something the White House managed to protect even in 2011, when the Republicans had more leverage and the president needed to fight an election -- Ryan wants a compromise that cuts long-term spending on entitlements, and a lock-in of sequestration spending levels with no Democratic opportunities for revenue-raisers.

A completely unnoticed piece of internal Republican communication gave the game away here. When House Republicans first released their debt-ceiling ransom list — the Christmas tree, everything-we-ever-wanted list — the note to House Republicans actually conceded the party’s strategy here. It read, near the bottom: Regarding Sequester fixes: Helping the DOD [Department of Defense] is a priority for us. But the Dems really really really want increase the discretionary caps; it will be their #1 priority in any negotiation. That is part of our leverage.

This gets at what I wrote about the left's sloppy insistence that the Koch brothers were behind the shutdown strategy because they donated around 0.5 percent of their "Freedom Partners" funds to Heritage Action. The Kochs donated much more than that to Americans for Prosperity, which has always been asking for a budget deal to force Democrats to swallow entitlement cuts. If you look around, plenty of Republicans will take credit for this obvious strategy.

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This is one reason why Republicans can now be sold on abandoning the "defund" campaign, and why the White House isn't yet conceding to a GOP deal to raise the debt limit and fund the government for a few weeks while a Ryanesque plan is formed.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.