Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Apocalypse now?

Robert Costa, perhaps the best-sourced reporter on Republican thinking, indicates that warnings in the wake of the 2011 debt ceiling deal that Obama had enabled debt ceiling terrorism for the foreseeable future were true:
Most of the conference is well aware of the consequences of default. In fact, over the past few years, the House GOP leadership has actually hosted private meetings for members about what default means and why it shouldn't happen. But, at the same time, Republicans are very eager to get some kind of 2011-esque concession from the White House and Senate Democrats on the budget, when they were able to pass legislation that led to sequestration. Of course, the political climate then was different, due to the GOP having recently won the House, but the GOP is hoping for a similar outcome this time, and you have leaders like Paul Ryan publicly talking about a larger agreement being possible. I'm still skeptical though, since most Republicans are unwilling, at all, to bend on taxes, and Democrats aren't exactly scrambling to cut a big deal with Boehner, who they think is in a weakened position.
Costa suggests that the current standoff over a short-term continuing resolution is likely to bleed into debt ceiling negotiations -- which Obama has stated categorically and repeatedly that he won't engage in. He also seems to think that Democrats are likely to waver in their resolve to negotiate neither the CR -- for which there's already agreement (on GOP terms) as to spending levels -- nor the debt ceiling. Here's Obama yesterday on the latter:

one of the most important things Congress has to do in the next couple weeks is to raise what's called the debt ceiling.  And it's important to understand what this is.  This is a routine vote.  Congress has taken this vote 45 times to raise the debt ceiling since Ronald Reagan took office.  It does not cost taxpayers a single dime.  It does not grow our deficits by a single dime.  It does not authorize anybody to spend any new money whatsoever.  All it does is authorize the Treasury to pay the bills on what Congress has already spent.

Think about that.  If you buy a car and you’ve got a car note, you do not save money by not paying your car note.  You’re just a deadbeat.  If you buy a house, you don’t save money by not authorizing yourself to pay the mortgage.  You’re just going to be foreclosed on your home.  That’s what this is about.

It is routine.  It is what they’re supposed to do.  This is not a concession to me.  It is not some demand that’s unreasonable that I’m making.  This is what Congress is supposed to do as a routine matter.  And they shouldn’t wait until the last minute to do it.  The last time Republicans even threatened this course of action -- many of you remember, back in 2011 -- our economy staggered, our credit rating was downgraded for the first time.  If they go through with it this time and force the United States to default on its obligations for the first time in history, it would be far more dangerous than a government shutdown -- as bad as a shutdown is.  It would be an economic shutdown.

So I’ll speak more on this in the coming days, but let me repeat:  I will not negotiate over Congress’s responsibility to pay bills it’s already racked up.  I’m not going to allow anybody to drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud just to refight a settled election or extract ideological demands.  Nobody gets to hurt our economy and millions of hardworking families over a law you don’t like.
That absolutism might be hard to hold if the funding bill were being negotiated as the debt ceiling approaches. Which makes the Democrats' acceptance of sequester-level short-term funding approved by the House interesting.  With regard to the substance of the funding negotiation, there is nothing left to concede. Unilateral disarmament on that front seemed crazy to me; now I can see it as potentially shrewd -- if Democrats hold the line on conceding nothing extraneous while demanding both a clean CR and a clean debt ceiling hike.

But that stance might also require 14th Amendment solutions.

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