“I describe budgets as a tapestry: When it’s woven together, the picture amounts to our hopes and dreams of a nation.”
—Jack Lew, Obama’s chief of staff and reportedly his choice to be Treasury secretary
But I have some doubts as to whether there is unanimity among Republicans in Congress to threaten the fiscal health of the country with a protracted battle over the budget. And it would take near-unanimity to pull off the caper of ruining the economy.
Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but if one thinks about it, there are now 55 members of the Democratic Conference in the Senate and only five Republicans would have to join them to stop any history-making attempt to wreck the country. Are there five GOP senators who care more about today’s America than tomorrow’s Grover Norquist?
Geeze, I hope so.
In the House, Democrats hold 201 seats. Only a handful of Republicans (and there are 15 of them who were elected in a district also won by President Obama in November) would be needed to stop the insanity. Are there seventeen or so Republican House members politically sane enough to vote with Democrats should it come to that? God only knows. And God only knows if Speaker Boehner would even let such a vote happen.
But these numbers indicate to me that Democrats can stand strong and not compromise away a jot or tittle of the integrity of what Ed Schultz calls “the big three,” Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
And besides hoping that there are a handful of Republicans who will refuse to become economic saboteurs, I am also hoping that Jack Lew—a veteran Democrat who first learned the ways of Washington under the sainted Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill—will be the kind of man that former Republican Senator and Budget Committee chairman Judd Gregg says he is:
He’s like a labor-union negotiator. He’s not going to give you an inch if he doesn’t have to. He’s a true believer in the causes.
It may take a Democratic true believer to convince true-believing Republicans that he will let them, if they insist on fiscal chaos, go down the road to lasting infamy. And we can only hope that such a prospect will send chills down at least a critical few right-wing spines.