It seems unbelievable that 2011 is not even half over, and yet a decision made by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to push forward with Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget may have determined that some of their party's freshmen lawmakers will never see their sophomore terms. Boehner decided that appeasing the Tea Party constituents had to be done as quickly as possible, but in doing so the House GOP leadership may have lost some of the gains they made in 2010 before 2012 even starts.
It is easy to understand why Boehner felt that appeasing the Tea Party was a top, if not the top, priority. The Tea Party constituents are a vocal group, and with supporters in Congress like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) telling them to stay loud (Youtube), well, Boehner probably felt like he had no choice to do something big. On paper, Ryan's budget is definitely that. It had many promising components to it that promised to make the fiscal conservative's heart swell with pride. The problem, and there is one, is that a large part of the budget decimates Medicare as we know it, and seniors like their Medicare. It should not surprise the GOP then that in making the Ryan budget such a centerpiece of their legislative agenda will undoubtedly come with some cost.
Party pollsters warned the GOP leadership that Medicare was not an issue to mess with lightly and that the issue was a hot button one for a reason. No one can deny that Medicare needs addressing, but the Ryan budget was not the way to do it. No matter how the issue was spun, the Ryan budget never went below 50 percent disapproval rating or got to even a 40 percent approval rating. Those are not good numbers. Accordingly, RNC staffers warned Boehner not to force the vote and that he would have to find another way of appeasing the Tea Party (Politico). Obviously, Boehner did not listen.
It is still early, and there is a chance that the Ryan budget will be a non-issue in 2012, but if Boehner is hoping that the Democrats will let it drop, well, he only has to look back at those GOP sponsored polls to know that is not likely. A further issue is how the Ryan budget has been used as a weapon against anyone who wants to be a 2012 GOP frontrunner.
Newt Gingrich made headlines last week by intimating that Ryan's budget was conservative social engineering and that it was just as undesirable as liberal social engineering. It was yet another misstep in Gingrich's campaign. His gaffe had other candidates and would-be candidates scrambling to walk the fine line of approving Ryan's budget without endorsing it, with the exception of Tea Party darlings Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, who both wholeheartedly embrace it (New York Times).
It might be too early to say that appeasing the Tea Party with the Ryan budget will cost the GOP in 2012, but Boehner is likely kicking himself for not thinking of another way to do it. There is no question that making the Tea Party happy was and is important, but there had to be a less incendiary way to go about it. Boehner has probably and likely will have some sleepless nights wondering exactly that over the next year and a half.