When Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee who’ll oversee his party’s 2014 midterm efforts, accused President Obama of waging “a shocking attack on seniors,” it took an enormous amount of chutzpah. At issue, of course, is a controversial proposal to change the way Social Security is indexed – the “chained-CPI” policy – that the White House does not like, but which Obama offered as a concession to congressional Republicans who demanded it.
In effect, Walden was condemning the president for his own party’s proposal. A day later, House Speaker John Boehner, one of the officials who demanded Obama put chained-CPI on the table, subtly rebuked Walden’s craven criticism.
“The president is trying to say this draconian thing that no one likes is the Republicans’ fault,” Rep. James Lankford (Okla.), the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, told reporters on Friday.
“It’s not my plan,” Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) said about chained CPI. “This is the president’s plan.”
Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), a House Ways and Means Committee member, added, “I’m very sensitive to the fact that you’re impacting current seniors in particular. It’s something I’m very hesitant to jump up and down and support.”
The word “bullpucky” keeps coming to mind.
Yes, plenty of congressional Republicans, including members of the GOP leadership, have welcomed Obama’s offer – while refusing to point to any comparable concessions they’d accept, of course – so this isn’t a party-wide phenomenon.
But the larger point is that having even some congressional Republicans balk at their own idea offers the president an opportunity.
Remember, the White House doesn’t actually like chained-CPI. Obama freely admits he doesn’t want this policy, and only offered it because Republicans are such enthusiastic supporters of the idea. From the president’s perspective, he and his team are going to have to tolerate some measures they don’t like if there’s going to be a bipartisan compromise in which both sides accept concessions they would otherwise reject.
But over the course of just a few days, GOP lawmakers have called this policy – the one Republicans demanded – a “shocking attack on seniors,” a “draconian” policy, “the president’s plan.”
It is, of course, painfully absurd for the right to criticize Obama for doing exactly what Republicans asked him to do, but therein lies the point: there’s nothing stopping the president from simply walking away from the idea if the GOP has suddenly discovered they dislike their own proposal.
As I mentioned briefly last week, Obama, who doesn’t like chained-CPI anyway and realized his own party is furious, could credibly declare right now, “I thought Republicans wanted this policy. But if they consider this ‘a shocking attack on seniors,’ I’ll gladly drop the idea.”