Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, said the Ohio Republican is “talking with members, and the American people, about the best way to increase the debt limit consistent with the Boehner rule,” which he said demands spending cuts equal to or greater than the amount of a debt-limit increase. “No decisions will be made anytime soon,” Steel said.We're going to hit the statutory debt limit in less than three weeks, after which the only thing separating the country from default will be extraordinary actions taken by the Treasury Department. In other words, not making a decision anytime soon is a really bad idea.
And as far as "talking with ... the American people," I'd like to know exactly which people Boehner is talking with. Last I checked, the American public overwhelmingly disagreed with the GOP's strategy of using the debt limit to force spending cuts. Yet we continue to hear things like this from Republicans:
“The president is not going to get a straight vote to raise the debt ceiling,” said Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican. “It is just not politically possible. There has to be some barter framework that involves significant deficit reduction.”It's amazing to hear Republicans continue to spout nonsense like that, especially given that President Obama has already gone more than halfway towards the Republican position—even including Social Security cuts in his budget proposal.
If I had to bet, I'd say Republicans are bluffing, but even if they aren't, Democrats need to stick to their no-negotiations pledge on the debt limit. What we've seen with the sequester is that negotiating with saboteurs doesn't stop them from doing harm. At best, it just delays the inevitable. It also lets them avoid the blame for the crisis they created.
It's hard to be confident that Democrats will do the right thing here, especially given the White House budget proposal. But if they do, one of two things will happen: Either Republicans will cave, or they will force the nation into default. Nobody wants default, but if the alternative to default is setting the precedent that Republicans can use the debt limit every year or two to force things like the sequester and Social Security benefit cuts down the country's throat (while blaming Democrats!), then default is looking more and more like the lesser of two evils.