Boehner’s Debt-Ceiling Capitulation: What Does It Mean?

Our friend Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post reports:

Days after President Obama held a press conference re-asserting his refusal to negotiate with Republicans on raising the debt ceiling, House GOP leaders announced Friday they would move to extend the country’s credit limit for another three months…

Democrats quickly declared victory, insisting that Obama’s hardline stance had cowed a divided GOP into a concession that just a few weeks ago they insisted they would not make.

But as Cillizza continues, Republicans are presenting this as more of a retrenchment than a retreat:

“Republicans have to do a better job of picking our fights,” said one prominent Republican consultant. “So, we need more concern about the impact of Obama’s reckless spending before we fight with a guy who controls the bully pulpit.”

As one senior House Republican aide explained it, putting the debt ceiling after the sequester (the series of automatic, across the board cuts that will kick in unless Congress acts to cut spending on its own) and insisting that the Senate produce a budget before April 15 or not be paid shifts the terms of the debate in a favorable way for Republicans.

No matter how you spin it, this does represent a major change from just a few weeks ago:

“I don’t think going over the fiscal cliff would have been a huge deal,” [Rep. Mike Coffman] continued. “Temporarily, the markets would have been aggravated until the next Congress could have passed new tax cuts and ironed things out.

“But the real big deal is what’s upon us and going past the debt limit. I have to see a way out of this, real spending cuts, before I vote to raise the debt limit.” [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, and most House Republicans, are in the same boat, promising not to raise the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling until they can force Obama to agree to deep spending cuts for entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

So much for that bluster, eh? Of course, we haven’t heard from Colorado Reps. Mike Coffman and Cory Gardner to know if they’re on board with this latest maneuver at all. Part of a larger problem, as Washington Post’s Cillizza continues:

In the near term, it isn’t entirely clear that Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor can convince a majority of their GOP colleagues to vote for even a temporary increase in the debt ceiling…

[T]he death of Boehner’s “Plan B” during the fiscal cliff fight — a defeat led by tea party conservatives that guaranteed a worse bill would become law — reveals that there is a significant group within the House GOP who prize moral victories over actual victories.

The longer term risk is that the terms of the economic debate either a) don’t change much or b) move in Democrats’ favor between now and April 15. If the economy is showing signs of real growth by that point — and it could be — the perceived leverage that Republicans believe they have could well disappear.

The whole point of this tactical retreat away from threats to not raise the debt ceiling is to show that Republicans can be, at length, constructive partners in real bipartisan solutions–or failing that, at least not grossly irresponsible rogues. The severe weakness in support for Republicans in polling directly springs from the perception that today’s GOP cares more about ideological satisfaction than effective governing, with results that have tangibly harmed the American economy.

The danger is that even though some in the GOP want to change course, to fight smarter battles in place of these damaging epic confrontations that leave Republicans squarely opposed to the overwhelming majority of voters, they may not be able to overcome the wing of their own party that is hopelessly bent on exactly that sort of confrontation.

11 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. harrydobyharrydoby says:

    Enhancement request: you need a link at the bottom of your diary like the old “there’s more”, so we don’t have to scroll back up to the title bar to get to the comments section.

  2. Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

    A good suggestion. We’ll fix that right away.

  3. I agree with the Republicans on one thing here – well, at least in general. Obama agrees, too.

    Future debt ceiling increases should be tied (automatically) to Congressional appropriations measures.

    Republicans are trying to make the best of this change in position, but they’re not really getting much for it. The continuing resolution expires in March; any future spending will be contingent on passing new appropriations anyway.

  4. roccoprahn says:

    I’m thinking the pinkos can’t come out and say they realize defaulting on the good faith and credit of these United States is an idiotic idea, and they’re caving, so they’re hoping to kick it down the road 90 days, and maybe when they cave then, things will be so hectic, nobody will notice.

    What worries me about this possible pinko “come to Jesus” moment is what the President may have had to trade, in private, obviously, for it.

    I’m hearing very disturbing grumblings concerning Harry Reid’s possible standing down on what could be the biggest legislative moment of the 113th Congress come Tuesday…….the filibuster reform.

    We have to introduce and pass the Bill on the first day of the new Congress, which is over when the Chambers quit for the day Tuesday.

    Should Reid not bring up and pass it, legislation which requires only 51 votes, on Tuesday, it won’t happen for the next two years. Tuesday is THAT important.

    We’ll see.

    • Reid was wishy-washy last time, too.

      I don’t think anyone has traded anything here – I just think Reid really wants to have Republicans kind of sort of working to get shit done this session. I just wish he’d realize he’s being Charlie Brown to McConnell’s Lucy if he weakens the filibuster.

      One thing that might come out of Reid’s wishy-washy-ness… Last I heard he was proposing an alteration that would change the cloture vote from 60 in favor to 41 opposing. That would force Republicans to keep 41 members available for a cloture vote, and would allow Reid to call all-night and multi-day sessions attempting to get cloture, during which time 41 Republicans would have to camp out in the Senate chambers.

      • roccoprahn says:

        Even that, in itself, is huge. Redlegs aren’t even big on working 3-4 day schedules, and if the 112th is an indication, the very idea of being in Chambers more that 1-2 days a week is very distatefull to the red team.

        I guess that side finds the nightlife at Coburn’s townhouse pretty exciting.

        Over in the House, Boehner oversaw the least productive (yes in terms of days attended as well as legislation) Congress in the Nation’s history.

        PR, if you’re right, this would be huge. The typical copperhead, voter or pol, would rather fundraise than legislate anyway, sleep in than work, so if filibustering means going to work, there sure won’t be 385 filibusters in the next 4 years.

        Maybe not even 50.

        Imagine the hurdle being less than 41 opposing. With 55 counting the indies, we’re golden.

        • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

          “The very idea of being in Chambers more than 1-2 days a week is very distasteful to the red team.
          I guess that side finds the nightlife at Coburn’s townhouse pretty exciting.”

          Just proves you know those guys pretty well…

    • MADCO says:

      Technically- 50 + Biden

  5. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    The most important statement in this whole post is the fact that Boehner can’t even promise this small step away from holding the country hostage can even be passed by the radical Teabagger majority.

    Never be grateful to a hostage taker for releasing a hostage. That’s Stockholm Syndrome.

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