On March 2, President Barack Obama anointed Vice President Joe Biden as his lead negotiator on coming to an agreement with congressional conservatives on this year's federal budget. Biden then spent half a day on Capitol Hill talking with Republicans before jetting off to Europe. The next week, Senator Joe Manchin (D–WV) attacked the President on the Senate floor: "Why are we doing all this when the most powerful person in these negotiations—our president—has failed to lead this debate or offer a serious proposal for spending and cuts that he would be willing to fight for?" What Manchin doesn't seem to realize is that failure is Obama's plan.
After an unprecedented two-year spending spree, President Obama is not looking to change Washington's bad habits anytime soon. However conservatives got the message in last November's elections. The American people want them to take substantive steps towards scaling back an out-of-control government. House Republicans passed a seven-month continuing resolution to keep the government operating that cut $61 billion in spending and blocked funding for a host of terrible policies, including Obamacare. This was a good first step. A modest step Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and President Obama are unwilling to take. In response, Reid and Obama have offered only the status quo.
The plan goes like this: President Obama does nothing now and allows the existing continuing resolution to expire. The White House and its media allies then portray the resulting government shutdown as the end of Western civilization as we know it (remember the TARP debate!). Americans' faith in the Republican approach on "cutting programs to reduce the budget deficit and still maintaining needed federal programs" tanks. President Obama then emerges as the centrist peacemaker balancing the spendthrift congressional Democrats with the mean-spirited congressional Republican spending-cutters. President Obama's base then pretends they're offended at some very minor cuts, centrist Republicans cut a deal, and the President's popularity soars like it did after the December tax legislation. Conservatives then go into the deficit ceiling and 2012 budget debates as untrusted losers. That is the White House plan.
Conservatives can't allow this to happen. They should fill the void that President Obama's failure to lead has created. After all, this debate is occurring because the previous Congress failed to even try and pass a budget, one of their basic responsibilities. They must make sure their constituents understand that President Obama and Senator Reid are not acting in good faith. The time for more continuing resolutions is over. This is about much more than cutting $61 billion from this year's budget. If we cannot trim a meager 2 percent now, what hope do we have of tackling entitlements? We must make the tough decisions now because we know President Obama won't.