By John David Dyche
Is the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 negotiated by Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington and Republican Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin perfect from a conservative perspective? Of course not.
The deal is far from perfect. It does not address exploding entitlement spending or boost defense spending enough. Conservatives and Republicans should support the deal anyway.
As Ryan explains, it is the first budget agreement of its kind since 1986, will reduce the deficit by $23 billion, does not raise taxes, restores some defense cuts, and will cut other spending in a smarter way. This is a pretty good day's work in a Washington where Democrats control the Senate and the White House.
Republicans want to make much needed reforms to the entitlements that are actually driving America's toward fiscal crisis. Democrats simply will not do it.
Those in the GOP who vote against the deal are voting against a lot of good things in it. In addition to the virtues listed above they include anti-fraud measures in the Medicaid and unemployment programs, cuts to corporate welfare, and sensible reforms to federal retirement and pension guarantee programs.
The compromise shows Americans that divided government can work and provides stability to federal budgeting that has lurched from crisis to crisis in recent years. These things should help our still struggling economy.
The deal also helps Republicans politically. It keeps national attention focused on the Obamacare debacle that is discrediting big government progressivism and prevents another damaging government shutdown.
Some who oppose the deal have no responsibility to actually govern. They are therefore free to criticize and posture without having to produce reality-based legislation that can pass both chambers and get President Obama's signature.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul falls into this category. Paul, like all Republicans, would prefer a better deal, but he cannot say precisely how he could get one from Senate Democrats and Obama.
His political soul mates tried shutting down the government to get what they wanted last time. That gambit proved a predictable political disaster.
Paul probably sees this as a chance to score some easy points against Ryan, a potential rival for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. But Ryan gets credit for political courage (which he first demonstrated by making Medicare reform proposals when that was considered "the third rail of American politics") and proving he can work with Democrats to get things done.
Describing himself as a conservative who has read his Edmund Burke, Ryan says, "You can't shoot for the moon every time." In the current environment realistic Republicans must play a game he refers to in football parlance as "three yards and a cloud of dust."
Paul, on the other hand, is more of an Ayn Rand libertarian than an Edmund Burke conservative. That ideology precludes commonsense compromise in many cases, but fires up his tea party base of true believers who seem always ready to make the perfect an enemy of the good.
As of this writing there are also reports that Kentucky's other Senator, the Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, will also oppose the deal. Maybe McConnell can make a convincing case that he could have wrung a better bargain out of Democrats, but otherwise his opposition must be considered an act of pure political calculation to protect his political right flank from primary challenger Matt Bevin.
After being an integral part of the Republican spending spree from 2001-2008 that included two wars, an expensive new Medicare prescription drug benefit, a massive new federal education program, earmarks galore, bailouts and TARP it is impossible to believe that McConnell is now offended by the modest spending growth in this deal that is more than paid for with new non-tax revenues. That record will be a lot more difficult for McConnell to defend than support for this decent deal would be.
Indeed, one wonders if McConnell gave Ryan his wink-and-a-nod approval for the deal and a heads-up that he would have to oppose it publicly for reelection campaign reasons. In some ways the bargain resembles past ones McConnell himself has struck with Democrats.
The way Republicans will get better deals is to hold the House and win the Senate next year. Their chances look good now, but never underestimate the GOP's ability to snatch defeat from victory's jaws.
One way of doing that now would be to block the budget deal or have a big intra-party feud over it. Anything that distracts attention from Obamacare and the lousy economy helps Democrats and makes real reform less likely.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.