Democrats are gleefully passing around a video clip of Rep. Pete Sessions' (R-Tex.) appearance on "Meet The Press" this Sunday, and for good reason. Pressed repeatedly by host David Gregory to explain exactly what the GOP would do to cut the deficit -- should it regain congressional power -- the National Republican Congressional Committee chair stammered and offered platitudes:
"We need to live within our means."
"We need to make sure we read the bills."
"We are going to balance the budget, we should live within our means and we should read the bills and work with the American people."
"We need to make sure that as we look at all that we are spending in Washington D.C."
"We have to empower the free enterprise system."
Sessions was, as Gregory noted, dabbling in talking points; or, to distill it even further, just repeating the question in the form of an answer. (How are you going to balance the budget? We are going to balance the budget.)
"Tell me how you do it," a frustrated Gregory interjected. "Name a painful choice that Republicans are prepared to say we have to make?"
Sessions had none, save to hint that the policies he wanted to pursue were the ones tried by the previous administration. "We need to go back to the exact same agenda that is empowering the free enterprise system rather than diminishing it," he said.
And hence, the Democratic glee.
But a more telling answer may have come right after Sessions was let off the ropes. Gregory turned to the National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and asked him to put forward the specifics his colleague would not.
"Well," said Cornyn, "the president has a debt commission that reports December the 1st. And I think we'd all like to see what they come back with. ... My hope is they'll come back with a bipartisan solution to the debt and particularly entitlement reform, as you mentioned."
Pinning your policy platform to the findings of a commission is a tried-and-true way of avoiding tough questions and kicking tough choices down the road. More importantly, if, as Cornyn says, a commission is an important ingredient to charting a path toward fiscal solvency, then he ceded that the Republican party is on the wrong side of the debate. The Senate voted on creating a bipartisan deficit commission in late January, and the GOP (skeptical that it would recommend tax increases) helped kill the idea -- forcing the White House to put together a commission of its own.
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