Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Different Kind of Debt Ceiling Fight?

On Monday, President Obama declared, "We are not a deadbeat nation". He's not alone in his frustration with G-O-TEA intransigence on basic governing. Senator Harry Reid (D-Vegas, Baby) didn't mince words either when he described the latest outburst of debt ceiling madness on KNPR yesterday.

Last Friday, Senator Harry Reid sent a letter to President Obama signed by Sens. Durbin, Schumer and Murray telling him to “hang in there” and resist pressure to [cave on] the debt ceiling.

“This isn’t an effort to get more spending. This is an effort to pay our bills. How could the United States of America not pay its bills?” [...]

“There are about 80 to 90 members of the house who are controlling what goes on over there,” says Reid. “What (House Speaker John) Boehner has done, and it’s been a mistake, is try to pass legislation with a minority of the majority, and you see editorials all over the country saying ‘Mr. Speaker, there’s 435 members in the House. Let them all vote.’”

He compares threats of a government shutdown by Tea Party-backed Sen. [Deb] Fischer of Nebraska and other Tea Party-influenced legislators as a kind of anarchist tactic.

“When I was in school we studied political science and history. We studied about the anarchists – they were the people that went out and threw Molotov cocktails,” says Reid. “They didn’t believe in government at any level. Well the modern day anarchist aren’t throwing these kinds of bombs, they’re throwing a different kind of bomb. And they bomb they’re throwing is trying to shut down government.”

This is the problem. "Tea party" extremists in Congress simply refuse to govern. And they even refuse to allow the President to pay the bills on items Congress already ordered!

So how on earth can anything be done? As always, leave it to Harry Reid and Mr. President to find a way. Just as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Tanorexia) was forced early this month to break "The Hastert Rule" in allowing "The Fiscal Cliff" to be averted with mostly Democratic votes, and just as he was forced to break it again in order to pass Hurricane Sandy relief past teabagger temper tantrums, he will likely have to get used to ignoring "The Hastert Rule" so that the teabaggers won't throw America (and the world) into another depression.

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And now, G-O-TEA intransigence on basic governing is about to be broken again... By Republicans breaking away from their own party!

The six-word headline in the Wall Street Journal gets it just right: "Republicans Split on Debt-Ceiling Approach." That wasn't the case in 2011, when literally zero GOP lawmakers publicly denounced their party's hostage strategy, but it's certainly true now.

We talked yesterday about Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who became the first Republican lawmaker to declare, out loud and on the record, that the debt-ceiling shouldn't be held hostage for political leverage. The next question, of course, is whether she would stand alone.

[She's not. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) chimed in agreement last night. ...]

Of course, that's just the Senate. In the House, Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) said on C-SPAN yesterday that his party's debt-ceiling strategy is "not a good scenario" and raising the debt ceiling is a "mathematical imperative." What's more, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told the Wall Street Journal his party should give up this hostage and instead threaten a government shutdown over spending levels, and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) hedged yesterday on MSNBC when asked about the possibility of the House allowing a clean debt-ceiling bill to reach the floor.

As we discussed yesterday, for the Republican strategy to be effective, the party has to march in lock step. The moment some GOP policymakers start to say publicly, "Maybe we should let the hostage go" -- with others making similar remarks in private -- the entire gambit starts to fall apart.

So now, it's all falling apart for the G-O-TEA. At least some Republicans don't want to be blamed for creating another Great Depression. And with Wall Street demanding swift action, they're looking like they will soon buckle to pressure to take care of the debt ceiling already. Score another one for Obama & Reid.

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