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October 15, 2013 9:38 AM Headed to the Brink

By Ed Kilgore

It’s becoming reasonably clear that any debt limit/appropriations deal struck by Senate negotiators and the White House today will rejected upon announcement by House Republicans as the clock continues to tick down towards Jack Lew’s October 17 deadline for debt breach. The pending deal, which extends appropriations at “sequester” levels until January 15 and the debt limit until February 7, barely nicks Obamacare (it would reportedly cancel a “reinsurance fee” on existing health care plans and strengthen verification of the means test for individual tax subsidies) and meets the minimal Democratic demands for the fiscal calendar going forward. If Democratic negotiators successfully reject Republican demands for a ban on “extraordinary measures” by the Treasury to delay a debt default, the deal could postpone the next debt limit crisis to as late as next April.

But late last night Ted Cruz was spotted meeting with hard-core House conservatives at a Capitol Hill bar, and this morning the Right’s Robert Costa bulletin board is reporting bully-boy talk against the deal:

In a few minutes, House Republicans will meet in the Capitol’s basement. The chief topic of conversation: the emerging Senate deal. But before the meeting even begins, House conservatives are bashing it behind the scenes, and they’re pushing the leadership to reject the compromise. A flurry of phone calls and meetings last night and early this morning led to that consensus among the approximately 50 Republicans who form the House GOP’s right flank. They’re furious with Senate Republicans for working with Democrats to craft what one leading Tea Party congressman calls a “mushy piece of s—t.” Another House conservative warns, “If Boehner backs this, as is, he’s in trouble.”
But that’s unlikely to happen. As of 8:30 a.m., House conservatives believe the leadership is well aware of their unhappiness, and they expect Boehner to talk up the House’s next move: another volley to the Senate, which would extend the debt ceiling, reopen the government, and set up a budget conference, plus request conservative demands that go beyond the Senate’s outline.

“Another volley,” of course, would make Senate consideration of any House-modified deal virtually impossible prior to Thursday, when, absent some extremely clear signals that a final deal was happening, market chaos could erupt.

Here’s the big hangup in the House, according to an anonymous conservative “aide’s” comments to Costa:

“The larger problem, particularly as we go forward for House members, is a free Coke and crackers aren’t going to cut it with Cruz, Heritage, FreedomWorks, and the Senate Conservatives Fund,” the aide adds. “They have been selling the idea they know the winning Powerball numbers and we are about to hit the jackpot. Expectations of what is achievable and what we can get out of this remain way out of whack…. Keep in mind the activists are still calling offices pushing for the full defund of Obamacare. The message has not been relayed to the grassroots that the defund option isn’t going to happen no matter how long we hold our breath or how much we wish it would happen.”

So it seems we need to risk global economic chaos until “the grassroots” become comfortable with the idea that they aren’t going to get to kill Obamacare after all, which only the incredibly deluded or self-deluded believed in the first place.

If that’s the deal behind the “no-deal” in the House, it really is time, right now, for business lobbyists to begin telling Boehner that he needs to put the Senate deal on the floor for an up-or-down vote no matter how many sub-factions of House conservatives freak out about it.

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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