Political Animal


July 27, 2011 8:00 AM With six days to go

By Steve Benen

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) didn’t have an especially good day yesterday.

The embattled Speaker hoped to spend Tuesday shoring up support for his right-wing budget proposal, ignoring opposition from Senate Democrats and a veto threat from President Obama. Boehner scheduled a vote for today, and with sufficient support from his own caucus, the Ohio Republican could dare Dems to reject his ridiculous plan.

But Boehner’s plans quickly unraveled. Fourteen House Republicans announced their opposition, and many more said they were leaning in that direction. Powerhouse far-right activist groups — including the Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation, the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity, and the “Cut, Cap, and Balance Coalition” — also pressured GOP lawmakers to reject the Speaker’s measure.

Late yesterday, things went from bad to worse after the Congressional Budget Office announced that Boehner’s numbers didn’t quite add up, and the projected savings weren’t in line the Speaker’s office’s claims.

Less than 24 hours after presenting his plan, Boehner was forced to retreat.

House Republican leaders were forced on Tuesday night to delay a vote scheduled on their plan to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, as conservative lawmakers expressed skepticism and Congressional budget officials said the plan did not deliver the promised savings. […]

Mr. Boehner was forced to quickly retreat from the bill. Republican leaders said they would probably rework it to in a way that would reflect the decreased savings by raising the debt limit by less than $850 billion. Such a change would mean that the Obama administration would need to make another request for an increase in a matter of months, making the deal even less palatable to Democrats.

That last part is of particular interest. After Boehner’s staff finishes rewriting the plan they thought was finished, the proposal that intended to force yet another debt-ceiling fight early next year would instead face us to go through all of this again later this year.

And this will lead Senate Democrats and the White House to hate the plan even more.

There may be a temptation on the part of some to point and laugh and Boehner’s incompetence and mismanagement. Yesterday’s developments made him look quite foolish, and it’s only natural to ask the GOP leadership, “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

But I don’t see any of this as good news. Last week, House Republicans wasted time on a radical budget plan that they knew couldn’t pass, but which made them feel better about themselves. This week, House Republicans are wasting more time on another radical budget plan that they’ve been told can’t pass.

The problem, of course, is that there just isn’t enough time to bother with these games. Boehner intended to bring his measure to the floor today, at which point it would have either failed or moved to the Senate to be killed. But after yesterday’s failures, we’ll hopefully see a House vote tomorrow, leaving the Senate far less time to defeat Boehner’s plan, overcome GOP obstructionist tactics, pass a more sensible alternative, and send it back to the House.

Boehner’s failures yesterday only serve to restrict an unforgiving calendar in ways that make a catastrophe that much more likely.

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.


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  • c u n d gulag on July 27, 2011 8:08 AM:

    I shuddered when I had this thought:
    Since this won’t be the last debt-ceiling crisis we as a nation will face, especially if they have the same or more power in DC – what will the hostage takers demands be the next time?

    Assuming, I suppose, that we survive this one relatively intact.

    Which is far from a foregone conclusion.

    I sure somebody can convince the President that, like it or not, he's GOT to use the 14th Amendnent.
    It's his duty.

    Also, too, can you imagine The Right in this country if this was China, Russia, or Iran trying to ruin the credit rating and standing of this nation, instead of Norquislings from within?

    We'd have been bombing them for weeks at this point!

  • j on July 27, 2011 8:11 AM:

    Reading the detail about Boehner's crazy plan, I must have missed something along the way, he was demanding penny for penny cuts to equal the raise in the debt ceiling, but his plan as stated wanted cuts that were more than the increase - it sure is hard to keep up with the repub twists and turns, Mr Boehner by now needs a stiff drink I would say!

  • T-Rex on July 27, 2011 8:15 AM:

    Well, there's this much good that can come of stalling tactics: if the Senate defeats Boehner's bungle and then passes Reid's plan, the House will have to vote on it quickly or take all the heat for pushing the economy over a cliff -- and it sounds as though enough Republicans in the House are seriously frightened about that now that they'll do anything to avoid it. That means a minimum of grandstanding, and no time for alterations of their own. I still wish Obama would invoke the 14th amendment, but if he does, it will have to be at the very last minute, so that no one can accuse him of short-circuiting the process.

  • square1 on July 27, 2011 8:19 AM:

    If Democrats feel like pushing for a clean bill, now might be a good time. Just sayin'.

  • Al on July 27, 2011 8:19 AM:

    I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy and I believe a deal is still reachable if the democrats will drop their demands for more taxes.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on July 27, 2011 8:20 AM:

    We republicans believe that there will be no negative consequences if the U.S. credit rating is downgraded nor if the U.S. defaults on its financial obligations.

    As we know that belief outweights inconvenient facts and as we do not believe anything being said by the Obama administration, we believe that letting the U.S. default is the only way to achieve our goals of long term financial stability, destroying the socialist social safety net, preventing the n!gger from getting reelected, and returning to our path of permanent control of the governments by the republican party.

    We republicans believe that there will be no negative consequences if the U.S. credit rating is downgraded nor if the U.S. defaults on its financial obligations. At least no negative consequences for the republican party. And, it will prove what we have been saying all along that governing is the problem, not the solution.

    Or, as Captcha says nithisi succeeded

  • Danp on July 27, 2011 8:22 AM:

    Just a thought. Obama should consider turning agencies into profit centers, aggressively fining polluters, high income tax cheats, unsafe mines and drilling rigs, companies that fudge their SEC reports, etc. But this has to be done in concert with a campaign of "Who's on your side?" since even more money will flow to try to convince people that the violators are only doing these things to provide jobs for Americans.

  • efgoldman on July 27, 2011 8:23 AM:

    Hey Steve!
    Fix the formmatting, wouldja'?

  • berttheclock on July 27, 2011 8:24 AM:

    I really pity the staff of Boehner. Imagine having to spend countless hours trying to write one sentence. As Lawrence O'Donnell keeps saying, all they need to do is write one sentence for raising the debt ceiling. That has been done in the past. Just one "agonizing" sentence.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on July 27, 2011 8:24 AM:

    I agree with Al! I am also a glass half-full kind of guy who believes that, if the democrats drop their demands for more taxes and protecting social security and medicare, we could have a deal. Of course, we also insist that the Cap, Cut and Balance Amendment be ratified by all states and that Obama resign from office before we will raise the debt limit.

  • j on July 27, 2011 8:26 AM:

    Al - I must have (again) missed something along the way, I thought the Reid plan had no taxes! Can you enlighten me?

  • ElegantFowl on July 27, 2011 8:27 AM:

    However this ends (and continues), the American public needs to learn how extreme these Reps are. All the focus on the "who's compromising, who's winning" is a distraction and a mistake on Obama's part.

    Dems need to return to the substance of Republican plans: they all cut Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid in order to preserve low taxes on the wealthy (e.g. corporate jets and hedge fund exemptions). The more the public understands that the more they'll hate Reps.

  • DK on July 27, 2011 8:28 AM:

    One thing I think we can all agree on is that Boehner has failed to do a good job as Speaker of the House.

  • Ron Byers on July 27, 2011 8:29 AM:

    Last night I heard Gloria Borger say that a deal would be struck since none of the principals want to damage the economy by failing to pass an increase in the debt ceiling. Well, that might be true if the speaker was marginally competent, but he isn't. He seems to be barely able to organize a two car parade. In addition he has a leadership team filled with the likes of Eric Cantor. People who are even less skilled at leadership and are not very bright.

  • Chotard on July 27, 2011 8:29 AM:

    Al - The bottom line is that Tea Baggers don't want to raise the debt ceiling period - they want to doom the Obama presidency. And they don't trust Boehner - this is the second time his math has delivered less than promised. Either Obama capitulates and gives them his presidency now by agreeing to their ridiculous demands or Obama will be blamed for a terrible economy 18 mos from now. For them it is a in win - so no compromise is possible with or without their so called "tax increases" which aren't, but nevermind.

  • Live Free or Die on July 27, 2011 8:30 AM:

    If I was Obama I would just 14th amendment it. If he does not do this, for the next 18 month he will be tied up in Washington dealing with the next debt limit vote while Romney will be in all the swing states campaigning on jobs. Why doesn't anybody in the media point out what this is about? Is this all Obama will doing for the next year and a half?

  • Anonymous on July 27, 2011 8:32 AM:

    In looking at the 14th Amendment, a clear reading of "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned" suggests to me not so much that this is a safety clause for Obama to use but rather that the whole debt ceiling law is unconstitutional, as is the current Republican course of action, which consists entirely of questioning legally authorized commitments. The fact that (AFAIK) no one has ever complained about the constitutionality of voting to raise the debt ceiling says that precedent makes my argument useless, but still, why doesn't it forbid the existence of this procedure? I assume that the "including" phrase was actually the main intent of this part of the amendment, but they wrote the section much more broadly to cover all legally authorized expenditures.

  • steve.duncan on July 27, 2011 8:33 AM:

    There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.
    Winston Churchill

    We're all adrenaline junkies at the Tea Party Russian Roulette table.

  • N.Wells on July 27, 2011 8:33 AM:

    "Anonymous" was me. Phoey.

  • delNorte on July 27, 2011 8:35 AM:

    Republican leaders said they would probably rework it to in a way that would reflect the decreased savings by raising the debt limit by less than $850 billion.

    This is quite bizarre. They could rewrite the bill and find $400 Billion more in cuts to bring them to the original number - or propose even more cuts to court those Republicans on the fence about their vote. Instead they chose to reduce the size of the cuts to $850 billion, and move up the timetable for a future replay of this whole fiasco.

    If anything, this rewrite would only garner more "no" votes, because it's just a watered down version of Boehner's Plan A. I don't get the logic here - but maybe that's because there is none.

  • Live Free or Die on July 27, 2011 8:36 AM:

    In case I was too wordy above, the GOP want to prevent Obama from campaigning next year. That is what the two vote obsession is about. They will tie him up for another 7 months (August 2012)doing nothing but arguing with House republicans. He will not be able to talk about jobs at all. If he dares to step an inch out of DC to campaign, he will be excoriated for putting his political future ahead of the country. Meanwhile, Mitt will be free to bash him for not creating jobs.

  • dr. bloor on July 27, 2011 8:39 AM:

    If Democrats feel like pushing for a clean bill, now might be a good time. Just sayin'.

    They don't.

    The Reid plan suggests they're going to use it as an opportunity to pick the low-hanging fruit for deficit reduction, which they know they have to deal with soon in any case. The best liberal Dems should be hoping for here is a little lagniappe along the lines of extended payroll reduction taxes or unemployment benefits to make sure it gets enough Blue votes in the House.

  • Live Free or Die on July 27, 2011 8:43 AM:

    The Republicans have already won. For the last 7 months, all they have been doing is the debt ceiling. For the next 13 months all they will be doing is the ceiling. That is one neat trip-tying the president up for nearly two years. And watch what will happen. If unfortunately Mitt is elected, and Democrats try the debt ceiling dance, Mitt will immediately use the 14th amendment option.

  • Califlander on July 27, 2011 8:44 AM:

    If only Boehner were half the man Nancy Pelosi is, he'd be able to keep his caucus in line.

  • Kathryn on July 27, 2011 8:45 AM:

    I's either a miraculous one line increase of debt ceiling with Democrats and handful of Republicans, 14th Amendment at the last minute (can't tip hand on that one until 24th hour) and the long shot, Reid's proposal. My money (or soon to be, lack thereof) is on the 14th, followed by the remaining of Obama's presidency tied up in the impeachment. Boehner does not have the courage or character to support the simple one line increase which would require jettisoning the radicals, can anybody seriously see this happening? The talking heads are delusional.

  • Josef K on July 27, 2011 8:54 AM:

    Boehner’s failures yesterday only serve to restrict an unforgiving calendar in ways that make a catastrophe that much more likely.

    More like "ensures a catastrophe happens after August 3rd."

    I've repeatedly said neither Boehner nor McConnell could deliver the votes to pass any compromise or plan purely on Republican votes. I'd rather hoped this small point would have penetrated their respective heads by now and they start working with the Democrats. Clearly we all underestimated just how weak both men's positions (and backbones) are.

    I relearn why "may you live in interesting times" is a truly terrible curse every day.

  • Brenna on July 27, 2011 8:55 AM:

    Last night on Lawrence O'Donnell, Howard Fineman and him both thought the congress would bring a clean debt ceiling vote to the floor on Aug. 1. There's going to be a lot of chaos starting soon and panic will be riding high by then.

    I think these guys are both top notch political analysts and I'm really hoping they're right.

    But, these is an unprecedented situation.

    @Live Free or Die - You're so right, Romney would use the 14th Amendment and get away with it scot free.

  • pj_in_jesusland on July 27, 2011 8:55 AM:

    The withdrawal of Goodwin Liu from consideration for an appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reminds me how extensively Republicans have obstructed the conduct of civil society in America.

    Who do Republicans think will adjudicate all the cases they force on the courts by their increasingly strict laws, the laws they don´t want to pay anyone to enforce, except for the police and the military.

  • JM917 on July 27, 2011 11:02 AM:

    The unfolding scenario for now looks like this:

    Wed., 7/27: More blundering around by Boehner and his hardline opponents with the Teapublican gang. Reid, Pelosi, and Obama sit on the sidelines, letting the GOP stew in its own fetid juices, while the markets slowly sink.

    Thurs., 7/28: More of Wednesday's mess, until sometime late in the evening Boehner brings his amended plan to a vote in the House. It gets maybe 2 or 3 terrified Blue Dog votes but fails because of strident opposition from the Tea Party right.

    Fri., 7/29: Markets start to slide in earnest. Obama calls an 11:00 A.M. news conference to demand that both houses of Congress pass the Reid plan and have it on his desk over the weekend. Reid tries to bring his plan to a vote in the Senate, only to run into stalling tactics led by DeMint and Co. By the end of the day the Dow is down several hundred points.

    Sat., 7/30: People start to go into the streets with clashing demonstrations--Tea Partiers screaming "Let 'er Fail!" and (smaller) MoveOn-organized groups pleading for sanity. In a few places the demos clash and people get hurt. Meanwhile the Senate continues to struggle with procedural rules, but it becomes clear that 60 votes can't be mustered for a supermajority. And over in the House a revolt brews, as GOP hardliners push to oust Boehner and Cantor sits silently on the sidelines. Sometime late in the day, Obama goes on national TV to announce that if the Senate and House don't deliver him a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling by Monday morning, he will take unspecified actions to safeguard the nation.

    Sun., 7/31: Holding an unprecedented Sunday session, the Senate still struggles to get 60 votes together to cut off DeMint's filibuster. John McCain, on MTP, declares Reid's plan dead. Meanwhile there are more demos around the country, with anti-TP people turning out in greater numbers but still outnumbered by the Tricorn Patriots, some of them toting guns. Towards evening, the Senate finally cuts off the filibuster and holds a vote. Reid's plan passes 55-45, with almost all the GOP senators voting No and calling for a vote on Boehner's plan. Asian markets tank. Just before midnight, Obama signs an executive order raising the debt ceiling through March 2013.

    Mon., Aug. 1: At 8:30 a.m., Obama calls a press conference to defend his action and to demand that the House pass the Senate bill without further delay. When the NYSE opens at 9:30, there's a momentary halt to the downward slide. But at 11:00 a.m. Boehner announces his refusal to consider the Reid bill and calls for the House to revote on his own (rejected) plan, and the NYSE immediately shifts into panic mode. Other House leaders, including Cantor, announce that they are bringing articles of impeachment against Obama. Later in the day, there are uproars across the country as Tea Partiers rally to demand Obama's immediate impeachment and removal from office. People continue to get hurt. Boehner gets nowhere with his call for a new House vote.

    Tues., Aug. 2: Financial markets around the world struggle to weigh the chances of Obama's unilaterally declared hike in the debt ceiling actually sticking. In Washington, all the gabble is about Obama's impending impeachment--and about Cantor coming into the open to demand Boehner's resignation as Speaker.

    From that point on--your guess is as good as mine.

  • Karine on July 27, 2011 4:55 PM:

    House Dems: If GOP Is Intent On ‘Destroying Gov't,’ Obama Should Use 14th Amendment To Raise Debt Ceiling
    By Zaid Jilani and Alex Seitz-Wald | Think Progress

  • Karine on July 27, 2011 4:56 PM:

    If GOP Is Intent On ‘Destroying Gov't,’ Obama Should Use 14th Amendment To Raise Debt Ceiling
    By Zaid Jilani and Alex Seitz-Wald | Think Progress
    (I happen to agree)

  • Heather Olivier on July 28, 2011 2:04 PM:

    Our country has no otber option than for President Obama to take advantage of his executive power at this juncture. Charades only waste time and we have no time left for a fair deal. 3:1 is not a Fair "COMPROMISE" you must not accept a short term deal. You do not want to continually allow yourself to be painted into a corner, a position initiated by the nisinformed and misled tea party freshmen and their constituants