House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor stand in front of a white flag of surrender
They'll demand a ransom, but the mere fact that they are already talking
about the need to raise the debt limit just proves that they are bluffing.
Jake Sherman:
The House Republican leadership is considering releasing its debt ceiling plan before the August recess so lawmakers can actively sell it to their constituents.

The idea gained traction in a closed meeting of the House Republican Conference this week, where the main topic was how the party should craft a plan to raise the nation’s debt cap.

As you might expect, the preliminary outlines of the GOP debt limit plan still contains ransom demands, but the focus of the effort appears to be around building support on the right for raising the debt limit—not for creating another hostage crisis.

In that sense, it's a tacit admission that the "Pay China First" that Republicans passed earlier in the month is a political loser. The idea behind that legislation was to make not raising the debt limit a palatable scenario, but if they had any confidence it would work, Republicans wouldn't be trying to figure out how to sell a debt limit hike months before they need to raise it. (According to the latest Congressional Budget Office estimates, November or December is the likely timeframe.)

I'm sure Republicans will spend a good chunk of the rest of the year pretending that they are serious about their ransom demands, but the fact that they are dropping "Pay China First" as the centerpiece of their strategy effectively calls their own bluff. In order to sell their ransom demands, they also need to sell their base on the need to raise the debt limit—and once they take the position that the debt limit must be raised, it means they can't hold it hostage without committing political suicide, because doing so would be a self-admitted act of economic terrorism.

In 2011, Republicans got away with holding the debt limit hostage because President Obama didn't adopt a clean "no negotiations" position. Republicans were definitely the prime driver behind the hostage crisis, but Obama tried to use the debt limit as leverage as well. Everybody had dirty hands. But now that the president has said he won't negotiate, the only way Republicans could survive blocking a debt limit increase is if they were to convince the public that blocking a debt limit increase was a good idea. And they aren't trying to do that.

Sure, they'll spend months pretending that their serious about their ransom demands, but there's no reason to take them seriously. At the end of the day, Republicans will support a clean debt limit increase—or at the very least, they'll allow Boehner to break the Hastert rule so that Democrats can carry out the responsibilities that the GOP was unwilling to perform.

Originally posted to The Jed Report on Fri May 17, 2013 at 10:47 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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