Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Debt Celing Déjà Vu All Over Again

UPDATE V: "On Monday I wrote that the shutdown/default-threat/Republican extortion plot was essentially over—it was just a matter of Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, hammering out the final details of a deal whose contours were coming into focus. Once they’d reached a deal, it would pass the Senate with a fair amount of bipartisan support. After which John Boehner would tearfully bring it to the floor of the House in defiance of the so-called Hastert Rule (requiring a majority of House Republicans to support a bill before it can come to a vote), possibly with some minor face-saving alteration that the Senate signaled it could accept.

Regrettably, I was wrong. As it happens, Reid and McConnell came very close to inking a deal Monday night, but then McConnell suspended their negotiations on Tuesday to give Boehner a chance at passing a bill, which promptly collapsed under the weight of his own ineptitude and your basic garden-variety House Republican lunacy, at which point Reid and McConnell resumed their negotiation over a deal that will soon pass the Senate and force Boehner’s hand. Which is to say, I missed the all-important “let’s briefly pause so Boehner can flail helplessly while the entire world looks on in horror before we officially end this thing” step in the process.

In retrospect, I’m not sure how I overlooked it. That final pathetic lurch is a tradition Boehner inaugurated during the fiscal cliff negotiation last December (recall 'Plan B,' which Boehner also chose to euthanize before it came to a vote in the House). There was every reason to believe he’d observe that same sacrament this time around."

Read The New Republic, John Boehner's Shutdown Endgame: "The Final Spasm of a Corpse".

UPDATE IV:  "[W]hile it’s certainly the case that Boehner thinks a shutdown would be terrible for the party, and that he’d prefer to avoid one, it’s not at all clear it’s in his interest to do so. Why? Because there are two things Boehner presumably cares about more than avoiding a shutdown: not being ousted as Speaker, and raising the debt ceiling by mid-to-late October so as to avoid a debt default. The latter would be far more damaging to the economy than a shutdown, and therefore more devastating to the Republican brand. Unfortunately for Boehner, the only plausible way to both keep his job and avoid a debt default is … to shut down the government when the fiscal year ends next week."

Read the New Republic, If John Boehner Knows What's Good For Him, He'll Shut Down the Government.

UPDATE III:  "John Boehner isn't even trying to pretend his House of Representatives is a sane place anymore.

The House GOP's debt limit bill -- obtained by the National Review -- isn't a serious governing document. It's not even a plausible opening bid. It's a cry for help.

In return for a one-year suspension of the debt ceiling, House Republicans are demanding a yearlong delay of Obamacare, Rep. Paul Ryan’s tax reform plan, the Keystone XL pipeline, more offshore oil drilling, more drilling on federally protected lands, rewriting of ash coal regulations, a suspension of the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate carbon emissions, more power over the regulatory process in general, reform of the federal employee retirement program, an overhaul of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, more power over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s budget, repeal of the Social Services Block Grant, more means-testing in Medicare, repeal of the Public Health trust fund, and more. . .

This looks like an Onion parody of what the House's debt-ceiling demands might be. It's a wonder it's not written in comic sans.

Read the Washington Post, The House’s debt-ceiling bill is…wow.

UPDATE II:  A "shutdown is almost certainly a good thing. Yes, it can slow the economy and wreak temporary havoc on people who rely on government services. But these consequences are nothing alongside the fallout from defaulting on our debt, which will happen if we don’t raise the debt ceiling by mid-October. That's why Boehner's inability to persuade conservatives to postpone their Obamacare demands until the debt-ceiling fight is in fact a hugely welcome development. It gives everyone a chance to sober up before we take on the substantially higher-stakes proposition of avoiding a debt default. In fact, if Boehner and the White House had both been a bit more pro-shutdown back in 2011, when this whole B-movie horror flick started, that year’s debt ceiling fight and the sequester may never have happened, and we might not be in the mess we’re in today. A little bit of shutdown, I’d wager, goes a long way."

Read The New Republic, This Time There Really Will Be a Government Shutdown

UPDATE:  "For three years, Congressional leaders have relied on tactical maneuvers, sleights of hand and sheer gimmickry to move the nation from one fiscal crisis to the next — with little strategy to deal with the actual problems at hand. . . .

Now, with a government shutdown looming at month’s end and a crippling default on the nation’s debt possible by mid-October, Congressional leaders may have run out the string on legislative trickery. Conservative Republicans in the House have declared they will not go along with any more gimmickry from their leadership. Democrats have vowed they will not help Republican leaders out of their jam without some easing of spending cuts."

Read The New York Times, Amid Revolt Over Fiscal ‘Gimmicks,’ Options Dwindle for G.O.P.

"The savvy, sophisticated thing to say in Washington, D.C., is that the next debt limit fight is just Kabuki theater: Republicans folded last time. They’ll fold this time, too.

And perhaps that’s right.

But perhaps it isn’t. The central fact of the next debt-ceiling fight is that the two parties’ positions are mutually exclusive. Republicans say they will raise the debt ceiling only in return for significant budget concessions. The Obama administration says it won’t offer anything in return for raising the debt ceiling.

There’s only one possible outcome given those two positions: The debt ceiling won’t be raised. . .

And that’s the problem. None of the safe outcomes are likely. None of them even look particularly plausible, at least right now. And that’s scary. If you’re not at least a bit worried about the debt ceiling, you’re not paying close enough attention."

Read the Washington Post, I’m scared of the debt ceiling. You should be, too.