Political Animal


May 08, 2013 3:02 PM Wolf-Crying Over Debt Limit At An End?

By Ed Kilgore

There’s a fascinating dynamic going on in fiscal politics right now, all of it within the Republican Party. On the one hand, congressional Republicans are “backloading” all their demands onto the next debt limit negotiations rather than the “regular order” budget resolution negotiations they’ve been supposedly wanting for four years. On the other hand, they’ve cried wolf too many times on the debt limit, and their leaders have made it plain they won’t trigger a debt default to get their way.

WaPo’s Greg Sargent nicely sums up where the GOPers have arrived:

What all of this ultimately comes down to is that GOP leaders don’t have any endgame here. They don’t know how to get House Tea Partyers to agree to any constructive way out of this mess. They can’t get them to agree to a deficit reduction deal that includes new revenues. They can’t get them to agree to raise the debt ceiling without securing concessions from Dems that Dems are not willing to give up - but they also know that failure to raise it, and flirting with economic Armageddon, will be politically disastrous for the party.

It seems the initial strategem was to make the hostage for a debt limit increase something Democrats could probably live with if they had to: some sort of “framework” for “tax reform” that wouldn’t involve any major substantive precommitments. But conservative activists are already rejecting that idea. The scenario Republican leaders presumably don’t want is to drift along towards the debt limit with conservatives whipping up “the base” in expectations of big Democratic concessions or even an actual default—only to fall back at the last minute as business leaders warn them away from brinkmanship.

At some point conservative opinion-leaders may start arguing that Republicans should just kick the can all the way down the road and make deficits-and-debt a 2014 campaign issue rather than a daily struggle in Congress. The one thing that’s reasonably clear is that GOPers are about out of bluffs, and will be called on them from both the Left and the Right.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on May 08, 2013 3:20 PM:


    However, according to Steve Benen, Orange Boner suggested prioritizing paying off debt.

    He says he wants to pay China off first, before paying for the military or earned benefit programs.


    This is, completely f*cking insane.

  • boatboy_srq on May 08, 2013 3:28 PM:

    This, coupled with the "fiscal responsibility" exhibited by the Shrubbery in 2001-06, ought to be enough to silence anyone who says the GOP cares about debt beyond its utility in beating Democrats about the ears. Federal indebtedness is only an issue to the GOTea when the borrowing is done by people they don't like (until the stimulus, the ACA and the bank bailouts, it would have been "for stuff they don't like" but until BHO they liked what became those efforts, especially the ACA, so that doesn't work anymore).

    It won't, though.


  • David Martin on May 08, 2013 3:39 PM:

    My congressman, Bill Posey of Florida, seems to want to keep the current debt limit as a substitute for his pet project, a Balanced Budget Amendment. I don't know how many others are as crazy.

  • gdb on May 08, 2013 4:18 PM:

    Repubs should have no fear. Dems will bail them out. Like they did with air traffic controllers.

  • Bokonon on May 08, 2013 4:46 PM:

    Forget about the debt limit. They are test marketing the idea of impeachment over Benghazi.

    I know that sounds extreme and stupid. But remember that the GOP is more extreme now than when they impeached Clinton.

  • Joe Friday on May 08, 2013 7:50 PM:

    Reminds me of the fable of the Scorpian and the river.

    The RightWingers just can't help themselves.

  • Doug on May 08, 2013 7:55 PM:

    Bokonon, any Articles of Impeachment will go down to flaming defeat in the Senate. There may even be several Republican votes against them; ie, any retiring GOP Senators.
    As for the debt ceiling, let's face it; only if Democrats agreed to the complete gutting of SS/Medicare/EPA, a further lowering of the tax rates on the suffering rich tied to a massive increase in DoD spending, and with the President and Vice President offering their resignations to close the deal, would there stand a chance of the Teapublicans *possibly* accepting it.
    The real question is: would Boehner still have enough support in his caucus to retain the Speakership if he, again, ignored the "Hastert Rule" and relied on Democratic votes to pass a "clean", or almost so, bill?