Monday, January 7, 2013

Boehner starts to give on debt ceiling

I've seen several people comment on Stephen Moore's interview with Speaker Boehner in the Wall Street Journal. But Jonathan Chait is the one who nails the money quote.

First of all, here's what Boehner said about the debt ceiling.
The debt bill is "one point of leverage," Mr. Boehner says, but he also hedges, noting that it is "not the ultimate leverage." He says that Republicans won't back down from the so-called Boehner rule: that every dollar of raising the debt ceiling will require one dollar of spending cuts over the next 10 years. Rather than forcing a deal, the insistence may result in a series of monthly debt-ceiling increases.
BooMan is right to call that reckless and irresponsible.

But you have to pair that with what Boehner said next.
The Republicans' stronger card, Mr. Boehner believes, will be the automatic spending sequester trigger that trims all discretionary programs—defense and domestic.
On that one, its clear that Boehner is bluffing.
Mr. Boehner says he has significant Republican support, including GOP defense hawks, on his side for letting the sequester do its work. "I got that in my back pocket," the speaker says. He is counting on the president's liberal base putting pressure on him when cherished domestic programs face the sequester's sharp knife. Republican willingness to support the sequester, Mr. Boehner says, is "as much leverage as we're going to get."
That's pretty funny because less than a month ago, the Speaker himself was bragging about the fact that House Republicans had passed the "Spending Reduction Act of 2012" that replaced the sequestered defense cuts with draconian cuts to other domestic programs. And of course it ignores that the Dick Cheney wing of the Republican Party (led by Senators Graham, Leiberman and Ayotte) recently toured the country sounding the alarm about how we would all surely meet our doom if the defense cuts were to go into effect.

Boehner is also clueless if he thinks that liberals will rise up in protest about the other half of the sequestered cuts to domestic programs. That's because all of those that are "cherished" by the left have been exempted...Social Security, Medicaid, programs that provide assistance to low income families (ie Food Stamps), etc. Even cuts to Medicare are limited to 2% and can only be to providers - not beneficiaries.

So Speaker Boehner is bluffing. And he's admitted that he has little leverage when it comes to holding the country hostage with the debt ceiling. If he thinks that the negotiations over the sequestered cuts is "as much leverage as we're going to get," he's in for one big world of hurt in the next few months. And I'd say that beyond the bluff...he knows it.


  1. First, thanks for all of your wonderful, uplifting posts.

    Second, I realized while reading that WSJ article that we now have ironclad proof that Boehner was negotiating with the President in bad faith. If he truly didn't care about the defense cuts, then that means he put nothing on the table for the sequester, and should not be taken seriously at all in negotiations over it. Or, (more likely) he's just bluffing.

    I have a feeling if we really do breach the debt limit, the DOJ will get an injunction so the government can continue to pay its obligations and if the GOP really wants to push it the debt limit will be ruled unconstitutional. Maybe wishful thinking on my part, but I think the GOP will cave again when it comes down to the wire anyways.

  2. Why do you think he "didn't care" about defense cuts. Not bringing them up doesn't equal not caring about them, to me.

  3. I'm speaking to the impression Boehner seems to want to convey about the GOP House with these comments rather than their own (actual) budget priorities.


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