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October 02, 2013 8:44 AM The Big Blink

By Ed Kilgore

So with just sixteen days left before the Treasury Department’s October 17 deadline for raising the debt limit, the possibility of separate dispositions of two separate Republican hostage-taking incidents has faded significantly, per this report from Politico’s Raju, Sherman and Brown:

A harsh reality began setting into Capitol Hill on Tuesday: The U.S. government may not reopen until the two parties reach a deal to raise the national debt ceiling.
Hours after federal agencies shuttered their doors for the first time in nearly two decades, congressional leaders from both parties began to prepare for a protracted budget battle bound to grow more difficult the longer it goes unresolved.
Indeed, if the standoff continues to creep toward the Oct. 17 deadline to raise the $16.7 trillion national debt ceiling, the two issues will become intertwined — and potentially intractable. House Republican leaders and top Senate Democrats privately began discussing this increasingly likely possibility Tuesday, but the two sides have yet to engage in any direct negotiations in the acrimonious budget dispute….
“This is now all together,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said of the debt limit and the continuing resolution to keep the government funded.
Within the next few days, if House Republicans don’t accept a Senate plan to open the government until mid-November, Reid is highly unlikely to accept a budget deal if it does not increase the debt ceiling, Democratic sources said Tuesday. If the House GOP won’t back the Senate’s stopgap plan by later this week, Democrats are prepared to argue that it makes little sense to agree to a short-term spending bill if Congress is forced to resolve another fiscal crisis in just a matter of days.

For the past several weeks, of course, John Boenher has been committed to the demand for major, disabling Obamacare changes as a price for either the CR or a debt limit increase (the identify of the hostage has changed constantly). With the president and Democrats refusing to make concessions on ACA in order to secure a CR, and refusing to negotiate over the debt limit at all, it’s not clear what the the parties would be negotiating about if they were in regular talks. It’s also not clear that Boehner has the Republican votes in the House to pursue a different strategy.

So at this point we are looking at a scenario where only a major retreat by one side or the other is going to make any difference. There are some extraordinary remedies the president could take to avoid a debt default (e.g., the one urged on him by Brookings’ Henry Aaron just yesterday). And presumably Wall Street will weigh in with pressure on Boehner and company to the effect that stupid gesturing on Obamacare isn’t worth a major risk to the national and global economies. But I suspect we’ll have to experience a staring match until the Big Blink becomes possible.

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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