The Boston Globe
takes a hard look at Republican John Boehner's reckless strategy:
JOHN BOEHNER is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Multiple news reports on Friday had the House speaker telling fellow Republicans he would never let the nation default on its debts, which was a relief to the world. But on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, he appeared to reverse course, telling George Stephanopoulos that “there are not the votes in the House” to increase the debt ceiling without concessions from President Obama.
Boehner’s comment was a head-scratcher, because there are almost certainly enough votes to raise the debt ceiling with no conditions attached. If the chamber’s Democrats were allowed to vote, they plus as few as 17 of the 232 Republicans could spare the nation the economic catastrophe that would follow a US bond default. Almost certainly, Boehner meant there are not enough votes among Republicans alone to raise the debt ceiling. Thus, the US economy is hostage to the perverse strictures of the “Hastert rule” — the hardball strategy under which bills go forward only if most members of the speaker’s party approve, and the views of duly elected members of the minority party are barely relevant. The Founding Fathers can rest easy: They set up a workable structure. It’s Dennis Hastert, Boehner, and other recent speakers — Democrat Nancy Pelosi largely adhered to the rule, too — who’ve messed things up.
This scathing Detroit Free Press editorial is a must-read:
This is what happens when you indulge the idea of negotiating with the unhinged. [...] The destructive pattern is a threat to stable governance. [...]
The Washington Post
So here we are. A week into a shutdown that is yanking billions out of the economy and threatening people’s livelihoods. A week away from the nation defaulting on its debt payments, which could trigger another economic meltdown.
In a sense, the GOP is embracing the strategy of the Confederacy: The party is willing to sink the republic to preserve its own ideology. There’s no point to government at all if it’s not going to operate. And if America doesn’t pay its bills, then it’s not an economic superpower — it’s a deadbeat. But the tea party is willing to claim victory behind either one of those outcomes.
The president isn’t negotiating, and shouldn’t.
In a revealing moment Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” host George Stephanopoulos replayed a clip from last year in whichHouse Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) explained the foolishness of the tactic that he is now, a year later, pursuing. “It’s pretty clear that the president was reelected,” Mr. Boehner said then. “Obamacare is the law of the land. If we were to put Obamacare into the CR [continuing resolution] and send it over to the Senate, we were risking shutting down the government. That is not our goal.”
Cowed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and bullied by the most conservative members of his caucus, Mr. Boehner has done exactly what he said made no sense. Now he doesn’t know how to get out of the predicament. A shutdown is bad; a default on the debt, which looms 10 days from now, could be catastrophic. The speaker is demanding that President Obama negotiate, while setting “red lines” for those hypothetical talks (“Very simple. We’re not raising taxes.”). It’s not an impressive strategy.
Head below the fold for more analysis on this story.
Just how would a default be? Yalman Onaran at Bloomberg explains:
Anyone who remembers the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. little more than five years ago knows what a global financial disaster is. A U.S. government default, just weeks away if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling as it now threatens to do, will be an economic calamity like none the world has ever seen. [...] The $12 trillion of outstanding government debt is 23 times the $517 billion Lehman owed when it filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008. As politicians butt heads over raising the debt ceiling, executives from Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Warren Buffett to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Lloyd C. Blankfein have warned that going over the edge would be catastrophic.
Over at The Daily Beast
, Patricia Murphy
profiles the delusion of 10 GOP debt ceiling denialists:
Worried about the looming debt ceiling crisis and possible default of the nation’s debt? Don’t be! According to more than a few GOP lawmakers, conservative donors, and Tea Party activists, the nation’s debt ceiling doesn’t really exist and the chances of a default on the United States’ sovereign debt lie somewhere between unlikely and impossible.
Joshua Green at Businessweek:
Back in 1979, the Democratic House Speaker, Tip O’Neill, handed the unhappy job of lining up votes for a debt-ceiling raise to Representative Richard Gephardt, then a young Democratic congressman from Missouri. Gephardt hated this, and, realizing he’d probably get stuck with it again, consulted the parliamentarian about whether the two votes could be combined. The parliamentarian said they could. Thereafter, whenever the House passed a budget resolution, the debt ceiling was “deemed” raised.
The “Gephardt Rule,” as it became known, lasted until 1995, when the new House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, fresh from the Republican triumph of the 1994 midterms, recognized the same thing that Tea Party Republicans recognize today: The threat of default could be used to extort Democratic concessions. Gingrich abolished the Gephardt Rule, and within the year the government had shut down.
The way out of the crisis for Boehner and Obama is to agree on a deal that allows a modest, face-saving concession to Boehner—medical-device tax repeal?—in exchange for reimposing the Gephardt Rule.