It's hard to be confident about the prospects of a difficult package designed to address a long-term problem when you watch the difficulty Congress is having addressing the urgent expiration of a popular raft of tax cuts, but this will at least give the fiscal commission an argument to push forward: A 10-person majority that includes both Durbin and Coburn is sufficient for the package's supporters to credibly argue the commission's report deserves consideration by Congress and may indeed be the starting point for a compromise.
I wish I could be as optimistic. I'm as impressed by Coburn's fiscal consistency as I am dismayed by Paul Ryan's extremism and recklessness:
Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin reiterated his opposition in a meeting with reporters on Thursday. Mr. Ryan, who will become the House Budget Committee chairman in January now that Republicans have won a majority of House seats in the midterm elections, objected that the plan would not repeal the new health care law nor replace Medicare with a voucher system for future beneficiaries.
So is this a fiscal emergency or isn't it? And here you have a real distinction between a functioning conservatism and the obstructionist utopianism of the current GOP.
The debt is obviously the most pressing issue at hand; this commission represents the best hope in a long time to tackle it. But it must, according to Ryan, be held hostage in order to repeal a health insurance reform that cuts the deficit, according to the CBO, and that was a signature campaign promise by a president elected in a landslide. The only way realistically to cut the debt now, as Bowles-Simpson recognizes, is to work from the status quo - remember when conservatism meant that, when it gave some weight to what was already established? - not to demand tearing it all up and starting over, let alone also demanding a utopian scheme for Medicare vouchers that has no chance of getting through at any point in the near future.
So let's point out the obvious: Paul Ryan is another fiscal fraud. He has much less interest in practically reducing the debt than posturing as a born-again supply-sider and base-pleaser for the Limbaugh right. He is a veneer of fake earnestness over a vandalistic opposition determined to win back power rather than address the country's urgent fiscal crisis.