Well, not quite, but almost. Zach Carter and Luke Johnson of the Huffington Post report on a developing plan by House Republicans to demand an amazing array of concessions in exchange for raising the debt limit:
House Republicans plan to demand major perks for coal companies and Wall Street banks, alongside healthcare and social service cuts and a one-year delay in the implementation of Obamacare, in exchange for raising the debt ceiling until the end of 2014, according to a source close to the House GOP leadership. [...]
The Republican plan, which would also constitute a significant overhaul of the environmental and financial regulatory system, would cut pensions for Federal employees and raise taxes on immigrant families with parents who do not have a Social Security number…The plan would increase Medicare means testing, and would eliminate social service block grants and a fund for preventative healthcare in the Affordable Care Act that conservatives have characterized as a “slush fund.” [...]
Coal and oil companies would benefit from provisions to expand offshore drilling and drilling on federal lands. The proposal blocks the federal government from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and coal ash, and would give Congress the power to veto any “major” regulation issued by a federal agency (because an affirmative vote would be required, Congress could void new rules simply through inaction).
I have no idea if House Republicans will actually ask for all these things or not; one House GOP aide would only tell me that “everything is being debated.” But other reports have said they will lay down a similar list of demands.
With the announcement today that the new debt limit deadline is October 17th, and with it all but certain that Republicans will drop their government shutdown push in the wake of today’s Senate vote to move forward on funding the government despite Ted Cruz’s resistance, this coming confrontation over the debt limit is the one that will really matter.
Here’s my worry: By laying out a truly insane list of demands, Republicans could perversely succeed in reframing this battle — at least in the eyes of some in the Beltway press — as a standard Washington confrontation in which both sides are making demands and the impasse is the result of each side’s refusal to meet somewhere in the middle. You could easily see a scenario in which Republicans “agree” to drop some of their demands and argue they are trying to compromise, with some commentators then wondering aloud why the White House is refusing to negotiate in kind.
So let’s say it again: This is not a standard Washington negotiation, in which each side is demanding concessions from the other. Democrats are not asking Republicans to make any concessions. They are asking Republicans to join them in not destroying the U.S. economy. House Republican leaders — who have themselves conceded not raising the debt limit would jeopardize the full faith and credit of the U.S. government — are asking Democrats to make a series of concessions in exchange for not unleashing widespread economic havoc that will hurt all of us. But agreeing not to destroy the economy doesn’t count as a concession on the part of Republicans, and no one should expect it to be rewarded with anything in return. Just because Republicans are trying to frame this as a conventional negotiation doesn’t mean folks have to play along with it.
To be sure, there’s been some legitimate debate over whether lawmakers have ever tried to attach extraneous items to debt limit hikes. Glenn Kessler did a deep dive into the history and found a few examples of this. But they are rare, and in any case, as Kessler himself notes, that is separate from the question of whether lawmakers have ever explicitly threatened default in order to extract a long list of concessions, which is even more rare and may be unprecedented, particularly the way Republicans are doing so here.
At any rate, the grab bag of demands Republicans intend to make this time is almost comically extensive and off point, and as such, should be enough to get folks to recognize the basic absurdity of what’s happening here. I say “should” because you’d think the basic absurdity of demanding multiple concessions in exchange for not destroying the economy would be apparent enough on its face. But thus far, it’s been mostly treated as business as usual. Hopefully the outsized and buffoonish nature of this round of GOP demands will change that. Hopefully.