Sure, the big spenders running Congress and the White House have had a little too much fun with the national credit card. But is their opposition likely to be any more frugal? Occasional politically convenient bouts of deficit-intolerance aside, it’s increasingly tough to hold out much hope for the GOP on the deficit-reduction front. Not when the GOP’s top man in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, backs up fellow Republican Senator Jon Kyl in saying that tax cuts don’t reduce revenue and never need to be offset with spending cuts. And not when two other GOP Senators answer questions about how they’ll cut the deficit a lot like Lost’s producers answered questions about the four-toed statue and the smoke monster: We promise we have a plan—you’ll just have to trust us.
Over the course of several minutes, both Sessions and Cornyn were unable or unwilling to discuss what Republicans would specifically do on the deficit, etc., if they take back control of Congress. Sessions said that the GOP would: 1) ensure that the government live within its means, and 2) read the actual legislation. But when NBC’s David Gregory demanded specifics and details of painful choices Republicans were willing to make, Sessions didn’t offer a single one.
Instead, when Sen. Cornyn got asked what he would cut, he gave the exact same lame excuse that Obama has been offering: We have to wait until December, when the president’s fiscal commission gives its report. So the politics of meaningful cuts are so tough that GOP Senators who’ve been sounding the alarm about deficits refuse to actually spit out some possibilities? Somehow we’re supposed to smile big and trust that, after the election, Senate Republicans will finally decide that the time is right to make cuts they're now so afraid of that they refuse to even mention them?
Alternately, are Republicans in the Senate simply so bereft of ideas that they have to rely on a Democratic president’s broken commission? That’s not very inspiring either, especially when there actually are substantive Republican ideas for solving the long-term debt, deficit, and entitlement problem.
Gridlock may offer the best possible solution—the surpluses of the Clinton years came as Washington started arguing more and spending less—but if this sort of pandering and evasion is what the GOP has to offer, it’s probably worth asking: How long can you gripe about deficits without being willing to even talk about possible specific ways to reduce them? A number of Senate Republicans seem determined to help us find out.