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October 15, 2013 12:11 PM A Matter of Precedents

By Ed Kilgore

Here’s a up-to-the-minute description of the House GOP’s fiscal proposal and its significance from National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru:

The House GOP’s proposal this morning changes the Senate plan in several ways that are designed to make it more palatable to Republicans. The executive branch would not be able to shift funds to soften the blow of sequestration, as in the Senate bill; House appropriators want Congress to stay in charge of how the money gets spent. The delay in the reinsurance tax-which Senate Democrats put in their plan to appease unions-would be dropped. The medical device tax would be suspended for two years; that’s not in the Senate deal. The Vitter amendment would be applied to congressmen, the president, the vice president, and the Cabinet but not congressional staff. The Senate deal has nothing Vitterish in it. And the Treasury’s ability to take extraordinary measures to delay hitting the debt limit in the future would be restricted: It would become, as it once was, a firm deadline.
Opinions differ among House members on whether the Democrats would feel compelled to accept something like this. The Democrats would not be giving up much of substance, and the Republicans would not be scoring a huge win. But Democrats have gotten pretty invested in the idea that it’s wrong in principle, and dangerous, for Republicans to get anything at all in return for re-opening the government and raising the debt limit.

It’s not entirely clear whether this proposal could command enough Republican votes to pass without Democratic cooperation. But it really does represent a pretty minimal hit on Obamacare, and it looks like the Senate “deal” will include similarly symbolic concessions to Republicans anyway.

Unless there’s a “conservative revolt” against both the Senate and House GOP offers—in which case McConnell and Boehner would need to be prepared to accept Democratic help in beating it down—I’d say for the very first time there’s a clear path for resolving the fiscal fight before a debt default drifts into reality. I suspect folk in both parties will accept the responsibility of spinning the precedents set in the manner most comforting to their relative points of view.

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.

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