Friday, October 23, 2015

Republicans Have No Plan On What To Do About The Debt Ceiling

by JASmius

GOP Failure Theater strikes again:

Speaker John A. Boehner said he hoped to raise the debt limit before he resigns from Congress, but he’s running out of time to meet the November 3rd deadline in advance of his scheduled October 30th departure.

The Ohio Republican has five more legislative days to avoid a federal government default before the politically messy task falls to his successor.

Earlier this week, Boehner and other GOP leaders were prepared to start the inevitable game of legislative volleyball with the Senate: They would put a bill on the floor as soon as Friday that would raise the debt ceiling through early 2017, plus make sweeping changes to the annual congressional budget process.

That proposal, dubbed the “Terms of Credit Act,” bore the imprimatur of the Republican Study Committee and appeared to be an ideal conservative starting point for demanding concessions as a condition of extending the nation’s borrowing authority — before Republicans would ultimately have to swallow a “clean” bill.

Because, of course, Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell long ago preemptively conceded the issue by vowing to never let the federal government default, just as they vowed to never allow another government shutdown, even though all a default would really mean is a prioritizing of spending leaving the crucial areas intact (defense, homeland security, Social Security checks, interest payments on the debt, etc.) but herding countless leftwingnut sacred budget cows onto the chopping block.  Not that either man has ever had any stomach for partisan confrontations, but why telegraph it before the "game" even starts?

But on the other hand, why are Tea Partiers so pissed about it when they already knew this was going to be the case?  And, right on schedule.....:

However, a whip count Wednesday night showed the RSC measure didn’t have the GOP votes to proceed.

Sources familiar with discussions said conservatives could sniff out a “show vote” when they saw one, and said they would only support a debt ceiling bill that carved out policy riders that could legitimately put Democrats in a jam.

Which they would not, and for the same reason as always: All the pressure would be put squarely between the scapulas of the Republicans by Obama and Harry (G)Reid and Nancy Pelosi and the Obamedia, and the Republicans would cave and yield on a "clean" debt ceiling increase, and that would be that.  Without an impartial media, that's always how it will turn out until there's a Republican in the White House again (assuming such a thing is even possible).  Tea Partiers always think that if they just "FIGHT!  FIGHT!  FIGHT!" that victory is assured.  They should have learned by now that that isn't the case.  And just as with the "establishment," they have no Plan B, but appear just fine with that because they can and will just pass the blame buck to the Republican leadership anyway.

And that leadership is just as ill-prepared and, yes, autocratic and irresponsible:

A leadership ally, Representative Tom Cole, R-OK4, spoke to another concern about the RSC bill: He told reporters Thursday afternoon he was troubled that such a complex piece of legislation was being routed through the legislative pipeline without so much as a hearing at the committee level. The RSC introduced the bill Monday amid the “will-he-or-won’t-he” intrigue of Ways and Means Chairman Paul D. Ryan’s potential bid for speaker. [emphasis added]

In a way I can understand - not condone, but understand - why the leadership attempted a debt-ceiling-raising cramdown, doubtless with Democrat help: "Tea Partiers will rip it apart, jump up and down and piss on it no matter how favorable it is to conservative positions and wish lists, and we need to get this done, so screw them."  And that is absolutely a valid, almost no-brainer assumption.

But it also doesn't matter.  No representative can responsibly represent his or her constituents if he or she doesn't know what he or she is being asked to vote on.  That's the purpose of the committee process (and why the House Freedom Caucus wants power devolved from the Speaker's office back to committees) - to be able to take that "box," open it up, rummage through its contents, decide which are worth keeping and which are not, and what alternative parts to substitute.  It makes all reps participants in the process and produces a genuine consensus that lends credibility and legitimacy to the final result, as well as guaranteeing that everybody "owns" it, not just one faction, and averts the resentment and suspicion that "cramdowns" breed.

What it amounts to is that the Tea Party has made the mistake of losing all perspective with its purity compulsion and made this intra-party schism personal, and the GOP leadership has not handled it properly but instead has responded in kind, widening the counterproductive conflict instead of healing it.  And it has now reached the point where the Republican majority cannot function, and cannot govern, as was the biggest avowed goal of Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell coming into this Congress.  Or, put another way, the "establishment" doesn't know what it's doing and the Tea Party won't allow anything to get done other than to stick it to their own leadership.

And seemingly unbeknownst to both is that voters beyond the center-right bubble are watching this fratricidal bickering and back-biting, not caring a whit about either side's positions and arguments, and seeing a party that can't govern.  And a GOP that is perceived as being incapable of governing is a GOP that is more likely to be thrown right back out of power.  And that would be, I would think, not a good thing for the conservative/Tea Party agenda.

But who cares?  I've reached the point of apathy, myself.  We all know how this latest clusterbleep is going to unfold: TPers will force a confrontation, or try to, Boehner - who has nothing to lose since he's leaving in a week and doesn't give a rat's ass anyway at this point - will use Democrat votes to get around them, a "clean" debt ceiling hike will pass, McConnell will do the same on the Senate side, Paul Ryan won't have that piping hot mess waiting for him when he takes the Big Gavel, and that will be that.

Although if the HFC could actually force a default, it would be fascinating to see what came next, and to gauge the public's reaction when, just as with government "shutdowns," the world did not, after all, come to an end.

Hey, a man can dream, can't he?

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