Political Animal


July 22, 2011 2:00 PM The easiest, most effective way to resolve the crisis

By Steve Benen

Someone asked me the other day why President Obama doesn’t just ask for a clean debt-ceiling bill, instead of engaging in these mind-numbing negotiations. The truth is, he has asked for a clean bill, repeatedly. It didn’t get much attention at the time — the White House pushed for this in March and April — but the request was certainly made.

The problem is, it fell flat very quickly. In late May, House Republicans brought a clean debt-ceiling bill to House floor for the express purpose of watching it fail. The point was to let a right-wing caucus thump its chest, telling the White House that the hostage strategy — give GOP lawmakers sweeping cuts or they’ll cause crash the economy on purpose — wouldn’t go away.

Regardless, from time to time, it’s worth noting that as crises go, there’s never been an easier dispute to solve. ThinkProgress mentioned today:

Here’s a brilliant plan to end debt ceiling crisis and save the world economy: Raise the debt ceiling.

Atrios raised a similar point yesterday:

Debt-ceiling legislation can be passed in 2 seconds by voice vote

No one even likes to talk about this. The New York Times ran a lengthy item this week, featuring eight separate scenarios to resolve this fiasco, and a clean bill didn’t even make the list.

Let’s set the record straight anyway, in case anyone’s forgotten. Congress could, today, pass a clean bill that raises the debt ceiling. It would immediately end the crisis, reassure investors and markets around the world, and clear the way for Democrats and Republicans to go right back to fighting again. The whole process would take a few minutes. It’s no different than having a car headed for a cliff, only to have the driver realize the brake works. All he has to do is step on it.

Since 1939, Congress has raised the debt limit 89 times. That’s not a typo. The issue has come up 89 times, and in 89 instances, Congress passed a clean bill. In fact, in two-thirds of these instances, there was a Republican president, and no one ever used the vote as leverage for a reward.

During the Bush presidency, Republicans raised the debt ceiling, without strings or preconditions, seven times. The current GOP leadership in Washington has voted to raise the debt limit 19 times.Bush’s former budget director said this “ought to be treated as the housekeeping matter it is.”

But we’ve now reached the point at which routine housekeeping, which didn’t even give conservative Republicans a second thought as recently as 2008, is considered beyond the pale. This is madness.

One effortless vote makes the entire problem disappear. I can’t think of any potential crisis that’s so serious and yet so easy to resolve. But this isn’t even a possibility because the Republican Party has lost its mind.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Burr Deming on July 22, 2011 2:11 PM:

    This is less of a strategic blunder than it is a sociological tsunami. The GOP is not racing over a cliff. They are already falling over it.

  • zeitgeist on July 22, 2011 2:15 PM:

    it has the added benefit of being (a) the right policy, seeking to restore the precedent that the debt ceiling vote is purely ministerial and restoring long-term faith that the Government's word is good and (b) great politics. If literally every day (including the weekend - shame on Reid for flip-flopping on whether to stay in session) at Obama's public insistence the Senate voted on a clean bill and sent it to the House (or Pelosi loudly attempted to introduce one there), accompanied by press that "this is the best, simplest way to end the threat of default and protect Americans from a double-dip recession," the politics would be wonderful for the Democrats.

  • T2 on July 22, 2011 2:16 PM:

    Clean bill, dirty bill. The president is still black, and therefore the TeaParty needs to "take our country back".

  • c u n d gulag on July 22, 2011 2:16 PM:

    How come those of us who opposed the war in Iraq were branded as TRAITORS, but these people aren't being called ECONOMIC TERRORISTS?

    Will their actions help to hurt, if not destroy, the US economy?

    We have ways of dealing with terrorists.

    I suggest we start pointing out that these Teadiot's are ECONOMIC TERRORISATS, and that we need to use some of the remedies the W. Bush Administation shoved down the throats of a cowed, complicit, and compliant Congress?


    It's the ticking clock scenarion. These same people say that waterboarding ISN'T torture.

    Well, let's use it on them.


  • Anonymous on July 22, 2011 2:17 PM:

    This isn't "madness." It's purposeful destruction.

  • Anonymous on July 22, 2011 2:18 PM:

    I suggest we point out the Tea-diots as traitors.

  • gasb on July 22, 2011 2:23 PM:

    I blame it to a large extent on Obama's negotiating style, such as it is. He should have said, "give me a clean bill, or I let the US go into default, and then use the bully pulpit (go on every tv, radio station, twitter feed, facebook page, or whatever passes these days for the bully pulpit) and blame Boehner, Cantor and every republican who is alive for the resulting problems the default creates.

    Instead of that, he "negotiates." When the other side knows that you're ALWAYS willing to negotiate, they'll believe you and force you to negotiate. At some point, you have to draw a line in the sand - this was a perfect opportunity to do so.

  • SteveT on July 22, 2011 2:25 PM:

    The Tea-hadists aren't threatening to drive off a cliff. They're threatening to set off a suicide bomb. The deal that they're offering Democrats is that unless Democrats shoot the hostages or the Republicans will blow up the hostages.

    Someone should ask Canter whether the folks on his side have been promised 72 virgins.

  • Jon on July 22, 2011 2:28 PM:

    Yup, this history books will record all these wounds as self-inflicted.

  • Sasha on July 22, 2011 2:30 PM:

    I am *this* close to outright and without reservation declaring that the House GOP and their enablers are "domestic enemies" bringing aid and comfort to those who would see America collapse.

  • Elie on July 22, 2011 2:31 PM:

    Its been said before but this is just a continuation of the Civil War by other means. The American White People's Party is basically trying to secede from the rule of law under the current Constitution.

    Obama and this administration has a huge task that may be underappreciated by many -- even on his own side of the discussion. He is careful in his words about the use of the 14th Amendment and signaling whether he will or won't use it because he must be very very careful. This could not just ignite economic crisis, but a civil/political debacle -- envision people in the streets either for or against his impeachment?

    This is just not fodder for blog commenting. This is a very very serious constitutional crisis looming and the legitimacy of not only our economy but our very government is being challenged FROM INSIDE.

    The Tea Party is aptly named and this has been their goal. They are insurgents wanting an overthrow of the legitimately elected American government. Right now, the only thing that hasn't happened is that it has been named by its true name -- an insurrection by treasonists who want to overturn the government. No less than that.

  • Steve Simitzis on July 22, 2011 2:36 PM:

    Remember when "uncertainty" was considered "job killing" so we shouldn't reform healthcare? What happened to that?

  • brent on July 22, 2011 2:40 PM:

    I blame it to a large extent on Obama's negotiating style, such as it is. He should have said, "give me a clean bill, or I let the US go into default, and then use the bully pulpit (go on every tv, radio station, twitter feed, facebook page, or whatever passes these days for the bully pulpit) and blame Boehner, Cantor and every republican who is alive for the resulting problems the default creates.

    I don't entirely disagree except to say that he obviously sees some opportunity here. We will know how it plays out soon enough but it may indeed have been an enormous strategic blunder.

    The only other small quibble is with the language:

    "I let the US go into default"

    really I think one of the things that keeps getting lost here is that it is really not the President's responsibility to do anything here. Its not really up to him to allow or prevent default. Its up to congress. Its their responsibility to pay the country's bills and their attempts to pretend otherwise are actually appallingly dishonest. Everything the president says at all times should reinforce that this is their responsibility and their attempts to abdicate that responsibility are entirely unacceptable.

  • hell's littlest angel on July 22, 2011 2:40 PM:

    Call me a die-hard Obama loyalist, but I believe he will eventually flip Republicans the bird and unilaterally raise the debt ceiling per the 14th amendment.

    (Full disclosure: I believed there was no way that was Anthony Weiner's prick.)

  • zeitgeist on July 22, 2011 2:42 PM:

    Steve Simitzis on July 22, 2011 2:36 PM:

    Remember when "uncertainty" was considered "job killing" so we shouldn't reform healthcare? What happened to that?

    Its still true! Obama should stop creating all of this uncertainty by refusing to capitulate to the Tea Party!

  • square1 on July 22, 2011 2:42 PM:

    This is not being treated as a housekeeping matter because the White House has refused to aggressively push for a clean bill. Steve Benen is spouting nonsense when he suggests that the White House stopped pushing for it because it "fell flat very quickly".

    The truth is that the White House has consistently treated this impasse as an "opportunity". President Obama has repeatedly stated his preference for passing a large debt-reduction package now, rather than "kicking the can down the road." President has repeatedly pushed for the package to be as large as possible. "Think bigger," he tells the GOP.

    When the NYT failed to include a clean bill in its list of options, it wasn't an indictment of the NYT. It was an indictment of the White House's complicity in joining the debt-reduction mania. If anyone in the White House was talking about a clean bill, the press would pick up on it. They aren't asking for it.

    If the Democrats had relentlessly bean the clean bill drum, the pressure on the GOP right now would be massive. Sadly, if the White House expects to "pivot" at the last second, suddenly call for a clean bill, and have the GOP face the same amount of political pressure then they are sorely mistaken.

  • Stephen Stralka on July 22, 2011 2:43 PM:

    Has anyone introduced a clean debt ceiling bill in the Senate? The obvious question there is whether you could overcome the filibuster.

    But no Republicans actually have to vote to raise the debt ceiling, so you'd have to persuade a few of them that it won't end their political careers to let the Democrats vote to raise the debt ceiling.

    Then it's up to the House. If I'm a Republican Senator, I'm thinking that if the House passes a clean debt ceiling bill (unlikely, but who knows), I'm covered. If they don't (much more likely), but they do reach a compromise with Obama on a dirty bill, then I can vote for that.

    And if they don't vote to raise the debt ceiling in time, and worse comes to worse, I don't really have my fingerprints on that catastrophe. I might have a hard time explaining to my constituents why I voted against raising the debt ceiling, but I could plausibly say that I at least didn't stop the Senate from doing the right thing.

    Even in the Tea Party fantasy scenario where the House passes a clean debt ceiling bill, and the increased debt ceiling obliterates the US economy, I'm one of the few people who escapes the blame. I voted No!

  • June on July 22, 2011 2:46 PM:

    @cund gulag -- you have posted several items lately that I agree with - your comment upthread is one of them. Seriously, the GOP seems to have morphed into a formalized collection of traitors. They are openly doing everything they can to sabotage the economy. And they have the nerve to talk about impeaching Obama? For their single-minded goal of damaging the economy, they should be locked up and the key thrown away as far as I'm concerned.

  • Elie on July 22, 2011 2:47 PM:

    I always chuckle when I read critiques of Obama's negotiating style. I guess its remotely possible, but I doubt that if anyone seriously involved in the internal discussions and negotiations had a free minute, that they would be blogging here or anywhere.

    We see and hear comments from both sides put out for purposes which we can only imagine. Since we don't have the larger piece of the real discussions that we are not privy to, we can only guess the 'effectiveness' or ineffectiveness of a given strategy.

    Not that this would stop those who want to criticize and knee cap the President at this very serious junction. Hey -- whatever.

    Alls I can say is that I am deeply glad that some of you are very very far from the center of this thing.

  • hell's littlest angel on July 22, 2011 2:53 PM:

    "Alls I can say is that I am deeply glad that some of you are very very far from the center of this thing."

    Hear, hear! PA comments have gotten awful peanut galleryish lately.

  • Catsy on July 22, 2011 3:03 PM:

    How come those of us who opposed the war in Iraq were branded as TRAITORS, but these people aren't being called ECONOMIC TERRORISTS?

    This. Especially since by virtually any objective measure, what Congressional Republicans are doing right now is exactly that.

    We have a fanatic minority who is literally--and I mean that, literally--holding the nation's economy and credit hostage to their ideological demands. They are threatening to force the government to default on its debts and do catastrophic damage to the economy if their ransom demands are not met.

    They have crossed the line. What they are doing right now is--at the very least--criminal negligence. Half of the elected Republicans in Congress ought to be facing RICO and extortion charges, not bloviating smugly about their willingness to inflict economic ruin upon their own country.

    Never let them forget this betrayal. They need to be confronted with this every time they appear before the press and challenge to defend holding the economy hostage.

  • wheresthebeef on July 22, 2011 3:03 PM:

    "I blame it to a large extent on Obama's negotiating style, such as it is. He should have said, "give me a clean bill, or I let the US go into default, and then use the bully pulpit (go on every tv, radio station, twitter feed, facebook page, or whatever passes these days for the bully pulpit) and blame Boehner, Cantor and every republican who is alive for the resulting problems the default creates." Brilliant strategy, Gash, assuming that one is some sort of progressive equivalent to the tea=baggers. Let the country go into default so that you can the turn around and point fingers at the opposition. F*cking brilliant.

  • gasb on July 22, 2011 3:11 PM:

    I'll pick up the gauntlet that Elie threw down.

    Let's look at where we stand as far as how effective Obama's negotiating style has been, shall we? He and the republicans have been at it for, say multiple weeks (to be conservative) and where do we stand? Have we gotten an increase in the debt limit? Have we reached an agreement that increases the debt limit or advances the Democrat's principles? Is there one piece of evidence that leads us to believe that anything we (progressives) want is likely to happen?

    None of the above questions looks like it can answered in the affirmative. Now, maybe the President is in the process of wrapping up some grand plan to keep Medicare and Social Security intact, cut defense spending and garner increased revenue, and if that's the case, I'll eat my words. But right now, that doesn't look it's the case.

  • MBunge on July 22, 2011 3:38 PM:

    "He should have said, "give me a clean bill, or I let the US go into default, and then use the bully pulpit (go on every tv, radio station, twitter feed, facebook page, or whatever passes these days for the bully pulpit) and blame Boehner, Cantor and every republican who is alive for the resulting problems the default creates."

    Because when dealing with the stupid or the irrational, threats are always so tremendously effective!


  • Stephen Stralka on July 22, 2011 3:53 PM:

    I'll pick up the gauntlet that Elie threw down.

    Damn, talk about missing the point. I'll grant that the tone of Elie's comment was a bit abrasive, but it's substance was a call for patience and at least a provisional show of unity given that Obama hasn't exactly handed over his sword yet.

    In terms of the ever-popular hostage scenario, it remains the case that the Republicans are holding a gun to the economy's head, and Obama is the guy holding a gun to the Republicans' collective head and trying to save the hostage. Nobody's pulled the trigger yet.

    Now if you believe that it's at all important to raise the debt ceiling ASAP (and I would note that if you don't you're in agreement with Michele Bachmann and the House Crazy Caucus), then you can see that you're going to need some Republican votes.

    It's not clear if there's any way at all to make that happen, but I do know that if you're interested in saving the hostage, and you believe it's still possible to save the hostage, then there are things that are good ideas and things that are counterproductive. And in my opinion, standing around complaining that the sheriff isn't holding the gun the right way, or that someone else would really make a better sheriff, or why doesn't he just shoot the bastard already, would fall in the second category.

    But as to your questions, of course we haven't gotten any deal yet, either good or bad. That's why we're all here arguing about it. Are you proposing any way to get the House Republicans to end this nightmare that no one else has thought of yet? Seriously, if you don't have any better ideas, then you're acting a little too much like those Republicans who think they can just pass a balanced budget amendment and never have to do the actual work of balancing the budget.

    And the thing we're trying to make happen here that is in our interests is that we don't freaking default. How much more obvious could that be? Again, if you don't really think it's that critical, fine, but you're acting a little too much like those Republicans who think this is someone else's problem.

  • king buzzo on July 22, 2011 4:01 PM:

    There's no clean vote because Obama doesn't want one. He'd rather play chicken with a busload full of ignorant yahoos and the US economy in the balance so he can be seen as the guy who "does big things" at apparently any cost. His ridiculous narcissism on this one issue (with the totally predictable political terrorism of the Repubs) may very well ruin the economy (and probably his presidency).

    It was reprehensibly stupid for Obama to hinge budget negotiations on a previously pro-forma vote which was pro-forma specifically because of the well-known and well-established danger that messing with it could wreck the economy.

  • Stephen Stralka on July 22, 2011 4:11 PM:

    It was reprehensibly stupid for Obama to hinge budget negotiations on a previously pro-forma vote

    Did you just start paying attention to this story yesterday or something? It wasn't Obama who hinged budget negotiations on a previously pro-forma vote.

    I mean, did you miss the part where the entire Republican party went insane? Of course Obama wants a clean vote! That's why he started pressing for it months ago! Besides, even if Obama doesn't want a clean vote, there's nothing stopping Congress from doing it anyway. But really, the more immediate reason there hasn't been a clean vote is because the House Republicans won't agree to it.

    I mean, I agree that it would be great if Obama would just go ahead and use his supernatural powers to force the House Republicans to change their minds, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't have any.

  • liberal on July 22, 2011 4:17 PM:

    MBunge wrote, Because when dealing with the stupid or the irrational, threats are always so tremendously effective!

    Well, the Teahadists are individually very ignorant, but on the whole there's nothing irrational about the Republicans negotiating strategy, since they stand a large chance of gaining something at little cost to their own agenda.

    Fact is that once August 2 rolls around, we might be in technical default according to the ratings agencies, because we won't be able to pay off on all obligations, but there'd still be plenty of money to pay the interest on the debt itself, so in a narrow sense that's not default.

    In the meanwhile, a bunch of people get extremely pissed off because they're not being paid. E.g. if they started clipping SS payments. There'd be hell to pay almost immediately, and IMHO the Republicans would cave, if they hadn't caved already.

    Yglesias wrote about this, convincingly, awhile back: the President holds more cards in this showdown. Problem is that he seems to want to use this as an opportunity to advance his own not-very-Democratic agenda.

  • square1 on July 22, 2011 4:18 PM:

    @Steven Stralka:

    If someone wants to accept, on faith, that Obama is going to deliver a good result, then they are entitled to do so.

    However, this is a political forum. People come here to discuss politics. Not only what has happened. But also what might happen. And when people suggest what might happen, they do not claim to have a crystal ball, or any other capacity to see the future. They simply are making an educated analysis based on the political participants' past behavior and statements.

    If people have a hard time with the concept that some people here anticipate President Obama's behavior based upon his past track record, then I would respectfully suggest that this probably not the right forum for them to visit. If you prefer to only hear about political results after they are 100% certain, then perhaps you would be wise to simply stay away from political blogs and just read the paper (in print or online) to read the news of what political events have transpired.

    Personally, I consider the suggestion that informed citizens should not weigh in on ongoing political issues to be rather asinine. But if you want to place your faith in Dear Leader, like Britney Spears, have at it.

    Are you proposing any way to get the House Republicans to end this nightmare that no one else has thought of yet?

    Okay, I'll bite. How about this: Stop dicking around with "Grand Bargains" and just call for an up or down vote on a clean debt bill.

    Did you not read Steve Benen's post? The current GOP leadership in Washington has voted to raise the debt limit 19 times.

    19 times! When was the last time that Republicans voted for a tax increase? 1990?

    Look, it is easy to simply give up all hope and assume that Republicans will never vote for ANY debt limit increase. But, for the sake of argument, let us assume that that isn't the case. Let us assume that SOME Republicans can be convinced.

    Which do you think is easier to achieve? Convincing Republicans to do something that they have done 19 times before (i.e. the clean bill)? Or convincing Republicans to do something they never do (i.e. raise taxes under Obama's "Grand Bargain")

    If you want to nearly guarantee failure, go ahead and insist on significant tax increases. If you want a possibility of raising the debt limit, just ask for a clean bill.

  • Mitch on July 22, 2011 4:19 PM:

    @hell's littlest angel

    "Hear, hear! PA comments have gotten awful peanut galleryish lately."

    I figure it's due to the possible cuts (to Social Security, etc.) after Obama already offered the Republicans nearly exactly what they asked for previously. Sometimes it feels like Obama is doing the work of the Republicans for them, all in a futile effort to be "Post-Partisan".

    I don't blame anyone for their feelings. On the Left Obama supporters are hoping for the best, and they understand the nature of realpolitik; Obama detractors feel like he sells out too quickly, and appeases the corporatist Right more often than he stands up for Progressive ideals.

    I can even understand that person who (under another post) said that they would vote Republican next year. At least that way, I imagine, they know what they're going to get. I disagree, but I understand.

    Now me, I am cynical about the entire mess. I won't lie to you about that. I feel that anything other than a clean bill is wrong (if you consider the past 89 times) and that we have already offered far too much to appease the angry zealots in the house. I am astonished that after Obama became President the nation kept (and keeps) moving to the Right.

    It is frustrating, and it does sometimes make me very, very angry (personally I think Obama probably just reads too many polls and has bought into the not-quite-fact that we are a "center-right" nation, but that's another story altogether).

    But I'm trying to keep an open mind. To wait until the facts are in. To hope for something more than I believe will happen.

    I have for months been predicting that, in the end, we will give the Republicans MASSIVE cuts with zero revenue increases, in order to raise the ceiling.

    Pragmatism will win the day, even if it does hurt. We Dems are used to making sacrifices for the greater good. The Right abhors that idea, and refuses to make sacrifices. That's half of what brought us to this point anyway.

    I do, indeed, predict a win for the Republicans in this fight. The Dems are too responsible to let the nation go into default. The Republicans will win, and we will see more of these hostage situations in the future.

    But I hope that I am wrong. I hope that Obama and the D's prove me wrong. We'll find out soon enough.

  • Ronnie P on July 22, 2011 4:19 PM:

    Sigh, both the Atrios and Think Progress were tweets.

    Maybe I'm dumb, but wouldn't the GOP congress have to vote in favor? And they won't do that, will they? Do people really think that the facts that (a) the GOP raised the debt ceilings in the past and (b) Bush's budget director wants it raised are even remotely persuasive to the current Republican congressmen?

    I don't understand.

  • sapient on July 22, 2011 4:20 PM:

    "PA comments have gotten awful peanut galleryish lately."

    Mmmm-hmmm. There's a reason for that. Republican infiltrators love to pretend their "progressive" so that they can foment anger. I agree with those here who say that the Republicans are purposefully continuing the Civil War. Or a "cultural revolution" by Republicans hell-bent on burning down any remnant of a social safety net, and in the process everything else. It's frightening to those who are paying attention and needs to be condemned in no uncertain terms.

  • bdop4 on July 22, 2011 4:31 PM:

    I would like to see Dem members in both houses bring this up as much as possible.

    House efforts may be limited to calls for motions that are denied, but Harry Reid could certainly bring a clean bill motion to floor at least once a day. And then hold press conferences calling repubs to account.

    There has to be some way to build momentum for a clean bill. I've called my congresscritters and will continue to do so.

  • Alli on July 22, 2011 4:34 PM:

    At the end of the day this is all O's fault? Why? Who the fuck knows, the commentators here keep telling me so.

    I want to point out to the let the US default crowd on the left that the vast majority of people in this country live paycheck to paycheck OR just one paycheck away from getting kicked out of their homes. This situation is not to be treated lightly.

  • Anonymous on July 22, 2011 4:40 PM:

    square1: Another point missed. Actually, several points missed. (You should maybe start saving up all the points you miss. You could win a prize.)

    Your brainless regurgitation of the Britney Spears quote, for instance. I was thinking that my several insinuations that you're acting like a Republican might have stung at least a little, but instead you go ahead and prove me right. First of all, I'm not suggesting that informed citizens shouldn't way in, I'm disagreeing with you. I regret to inform you that an inability to tell the difference is a common characteristic among right-wingers.

    It may also be worth pointing out that the people you're likening to Britney Spears are in fact paying close attention to what Obama is doing. I could be wrong, but I doubt very much that Britney was paying close attention to the Iraq war debate while it was going on in Congress. Having some notion of what you think someone is doing based on the best available evidence, and thinking there probably aren't any better options, is a little different from blind faith.

    But the really ridiculous thing is that our disagreement comes down to one basic point: whether or not there's any scenario in which the House Republicans pass a clean debt ceiling bill. If so, then your analysis is correct. If not, then mine is. I don't think that makes either of us an idiot.

  • Stephen Stralka on July 22, 2011 4:43 PM:

    Sorry, the anonymous comment at 4:40 is me.

  • Stephen Stralka on July 22, 2011 4:58 PM:

    Hmm, I wasn't responding to square1 at first there, was I? Oh well, as long as it doesn't have to be personal, the arguments are the same.

  • Rick Ladd on July 22, 2011 5:05 PM:

    It's not madness. It's sheer, unadulterated hypocrisy and cynical manipulation. It's cowardice and charlatanism. It's disrespectful of the American people. It's childish bloviation and posturing. It's despicable and if the people don't vote these assholes out the next time they can, they deserve whatever calamity befalls them. Just wish they were doing it on an island somewhere so only they suffered. We seem to be turning into an awfully stupid country.

  • Craig Hartsough on July 22, 2011 5:07 PM:

    The financial markets and bond rating agencies will not allow a clean debt-limit increase. Nor will the American public. Whatever may have been possible a few months ago is out the window now, some serious debt reduction needs to be there.

    The White House and Senate Democrats are on separate paths now (WH with the House Republicans, Senate Dems with their Republican counterparts), and the first to work out a deal will throw the other under the bus. Looks right now like Obama will cave first and the Senate Dems will be left out.

  • hell's littlest angel on July 22, 2011 5:07 PM:

    If Obama blows off the Republicans and stands on the 14th amendment, the only ones who will object are the same intransigent teabag jerkoffs who object to every other thing he does, from supporting the Libyan rebels to scratching his balls. Let them try to impeach him -- that will sweep them out of Congress in triple digits in 2012.

  • david sanger on July 22, 2011 5:11 PM:

    " I can’t think of any potential crisis that’s so serious and yet so easy to resolve. "

    This is true if we think of it as a crisis about raising the debt limit.

    But for many Republicans and the Christian Right they see a different "crisis", whether it is a large deficit, or moral decline, or creeping secularism or any other of a hundred specters of disaster they are afraid of. The trouble is that they are the only ones who see these "crises" which generally aren't supported by facts and observations.

    Obama is trying to find common ground since he sees the UU as in an inclusive society of which we all are a part and we all have a contribution to make.

    The uber-Christian Republican right doesn't believe in common ground, but in an exclusivist vision which only they can see and which doesn't include the rest of us. That's why the most obstructionist of them will never compromise.

  • Magreeno on July 22, 2011 7:00 PM:

    This is my first tweet. I have been compelled by the arrogant speaker boehner, the leader of the republican party and the filthy rich, to speak out. Eliminating the tax loopholes for the wealthy that keeps them from having to pay their fair share of taxes is beyond reasonable. So why else would he and the republican party take such a stance and walk away from negotiations. It's clear that the financial ruin of the common American is a small price to pay in order to gain a small advantage for taking back the white house. This behavior is irresponsible, reminiscent of previous republican behavior that sent us spiraling into this mess just a few years ago!

  • king buzzo on July 22, 2011 7:22 PM:

    @Stephen Straika

    I'm sorry the point I'm making could appear quite subtle if one is perhaps all starry-eyed over Obama's total teh awesumness (so obvious among the posters here who seem to get offended *for* Obama at any suggestion he's not doing a good job) so I'll state it another way:

    Obama never had to accept the Republican framing of the debt ceiling vote. He did so from the very beginning of his own volition and has perpetuated that framing for months right up until this current perilous moment instead of repeating often and loudly that only a clean vote -- like all 7 of them during Bush -- would be acceptable. There was *no way* he could have lost that argument politically because there was never a moment when the 'debt crisis' was real - at least not as far as the public was concerned given a near 10% unemployment rate.

    Do a Google search for the following phrase and tell me what you find:

    'Obama insists on clean debt ceiling vote'


    Hypothetically then because I don't agree with you: "But he was forced by those mean Republicans in the house!" you cry.

    Maybe you find comfort in the idea that Obama could be so feckless over the course of several months simply because Eric Cantor and his Tea Party idiots stamped their feet and held their breath but if Obama was truly scared away from insisting on a clean vote (then doing the politicking to make it happen) by those morons then that would make their political skills demonstrably quite superior to Obama's and I'm pretty sure that argument'll get you kicked out of the Obama Glee Club.

  • smintheus on July 22, 2011 7:24 PM:

    Obama has lost his mind as well. Allowing himself and the country to be held hostage, especially in regard to a vote that was normally treated as routine housekeeping, opens the floodgates. Why would brinkmanship like this cease in the future once the president has demonstrated that it works?

  • Mary Carroll on July 22, 2011 7:25 PM:

    Here's an even better idea: a "clean" up-or-down vote on abolishing the debt ceiling!

  • Nikki on July 22, 2011 9:24 PM:

    Can we call the traitors now?

  • Doug on July 22, 2011 10:08 PM:

    These are the comments of "political" junkies? More like the comments of political junkie "wannabes".
    Presidents, if they really want something from Congress, DO NOT demand, they ask. They request. They urge. See where I'm going with this? I thought you would...
    square1 flunks logic AND the laws of time, by declaiming that it's nonsense the White House quit pushing a clean bill because "it fell flat very quickly and then offers as proof of THAT assertion by saying "The truth is that the White House has consistently treated this impasse as an 'opportunity' for passing a large debt-reduction package now..." So, because the White House, after recognizing that an "impasse" had been reached on a "clean bill", decides to negotiate and THAT is why a clean bill hasn't passed.
    Meanwhile, here in reality-world, when the House Republicans REFUSED to raise the debt ceiling, rather than retiring, Achilles-like to his Oval Office, Mr. Obama decided negotiations were called for. He then decided that, if there were to be negotiations, he wanted them to do more than paper over the cracks in the Federal budget. This is bad?
    Of course, Mr. Obama COULD have repeatedly, day in, day out, and in every speech DEMANDED a clean vote from the House Republicans on the debt ceiling. (Just the thought of that made a thrill go up your spine, didn't it? Thought so.) How would it play in Peoria, though? Or anywhere else? How would the MSM have reported President Obama's DEMAND? Don't forget, by making that DEMAND, Mr. Obama would be ruling out ANY compromise. HE would be the villian today, NOT the House Republicans. Or he WOULD have to capitulate.
    "If the Democrats had relentlessly bean(sic) the clean bill drum..." THEY would be seen as just as irresponsible as the Republicans. Which would give ever so much more leverage to any negotiation position the President takes.
    king buzzo opines that "Obama never had to accept the Republican framing of the debt ceiling vote." Let's see, to increase the debt ceiling means legislation has to pass the House. The House is currently controlled by Republicans. If Republicans say "no clean bill", President Obama should ignore them. Then - what? The Debt Ceiling Fairy waves a wand and everybody lives happily ever after? Or, much more likely, blame for NOT raising the debt ceiling gets shifted from those responsible, the House Republicans, to President Obama because he limited himself to demanding a "clean bill".
    Other than "demanding" a clean bill, what sort of politicking could Mr. Obama engage in? He has NO leverage over the House Republicans. For that matter, most of the Republican members' constituents probably can't influence them. He has NO leverage over the Senate Republicans. The MSM would present the President's consistent "demand" for a clean bill as a refusal to negotiate. "Bully pulpit", you say? So you want the President to spend four-five months talking up the worst-case scenario if the debt ceiling isn't raised? In a weak economy. With already skittish markets. Yeahhh...
    It's basic PoliSci 101, but apparently some of you are determined to flunk...

  • Tom on July 22, 2011 10:55 PM:

    Remember: "We[Republicans]create our own reality."

  • Eric Munhall on July 22, 2011 11:26 PM:

    What is different now is that the 89 times that Congress has raised the debt ceiling since 1939, we were not $15 Trillion in debt!

  • doubtful on July 23, 2011 12:46 AM:

    I'm still of the opinion that the Congressional act of passing a bill that requires borrowing (since the House controls the purse), it tacit approval of a debt ceiling increase, and should be treated as legally binding.

  • doubtful on July 23, 2011 12:50 AM:

    ...we were not $15 Trillion in debt! -Eric Munhall

    As a percentage of GDP (the only way the debt should really be reported), what you imply is untrue.

    As a function of logistics, your statement is dumb (because failure to raise the ceiling will result in MORE debt as the cost for the US to borrow rises).

    And you overlook the one true and obvious difference: a black President.