The White House and GOP leaders are likely going to strike a deal on the 2011 budget, and some lucky Republican legislators will get to vote no.
Barring a political earthquake, those lucky Republicans will include two of the caucus’ most prominent members, Rep. Mike Pence and Rep. Michele Bachmann. Both want to cut deeper than the $33 billion accepted by Democrats, but neither is embracing the role of deal-breaker now offered to them by critical Democratic leaders, including Senate Majority Leaders Harry Reid.
On Wednesday, both legislators won repeated applause from at least 2,000 happy, chanting Tea Party demonstrators brought to Congress by Americans For Prosperity. Both called for deeper cuts and balanced budgets, both praised the demonstrators, but neither said they’d torpedo a compromise approved by House Speaker John Boehner.
“It’s time to pick a fight, it’s time to cut spending and cut it now… I say, shut it down!” Pence told the crowd, who responded by chanting “Shut it Down! Shut it Down!” In Washington, “things don’t change until they have to… [but now] the American people are back in charge!” he declared.
The crowd of bussed-in people from Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and other states, repeatedly cheered for a shutdown and for deeper cuts. “A quarter of a trillion [in cuts] won’t be enough,” Rick Mishoe from South Carolina, told TheDC.
Yet Pence did not threaten to campaign against any deal cut by Boehner. He didn’t lay down any markers, nor demand any particular level of cuts.
Asked afterward if the GOP caucus would gain from a shutdown, he punted, and said that “the politics will take care of themselves.”
“It’s not 1995, the American people are more informed and more engaged… The taxpayer will win in any confrontation with big spenders in Washington,” Pence said.
His stance, in part, is driven by his straightforward preference for small government. In caucus debates, “he sees himself as an anchor to windward,” resolutely resisting Washington’s gale-force pressure to increase spending, said a Pence aide.
But Pence’s stance is also a good match for his political ambitions. He’s considering a run for Indiana’s governor’s job, now held by Mitch Daniels, and he’ll need help from fired-up party activists to win the state’s primary.
When Bachman took the microphone, she made no threats against a Boehner-approved deal, even though she’s said repeatedly that she will not vote for any deal that doesn’t defund Obamacare. Republicans should “get serious about cutting spending… [because] the Democrats have us on a course towards bankruptcy,” she announced to cheers from the crowd. “We are reasonable, fair-minded people, saying [to the White House] ‘Get Your Act Together’… we know the how to stretch a dollar, we clip coupons, we go to dollar stores,” she declared.
In anticipation of a shutdown, she blamed Democrats, and then announced that “there is no such thing as a government shutdown… it is a government slowdown.” Social Security checks will be mailed, soldiers will be paid, and many government workers will remain on the job, she said. “Hold your member of Congress’ feet to the fire, because the American people are with you, and we will prevail,” she announced.
Bachmann won a stronger reaction from the crowd than Pence, partly because many in the crowd knew she’s positioning herself for a run towards the White House. Her short walk from the lawn to the Congress building took about 10 minutes because her path was blocked by throngs of fans, photographers and reporters seeking her signature, image, and comments.