October 16, 2013

From the very beginning of this whole crisis, two facts have been plainly obvious to anyone who cared to appreciate the basic dynamics of the situation:

1) The incentives always argued overwhelmingly in favor of Dems refusing to concede any meaningful ground to the GOP demand for major unilateral concessions in a context where Republicans were using the threat of extensive harm to the country to get their way. This was the only way to prevent this from happening to Dems — and the country — again.

2) There was never any compromise that could prove acceptable to both Tea Party conservatives on one side, and Obama and Senate Dems on the other. One side believes it must reserve the threat of widespread damage to the country as leverage to cripple the Obama presidency before it destroys the country. The other wants to end use of that as leverage for good. That core difference was inherently unbridgeable.

Today, with Senators close to a deal to reopen the government and lift the debt limit, John Boehner may finally have to come to terms with those two facts, and accept their implications: The only way out of this mess is through an alliance of non-Tea Party Republicans and Democrats.

The collapse of the House’s plan to end the crisis — precipitated by conservatives who said it didn’t extract enough in concessions on Obamacare in exchange for averting widespread harm to the country – once again confirms point two above. Meanwhile, Jackie Calmes has a good piece reporting on the White House’s conclusion early on that the only real option was to refuse to legitimize GOP extortion tactics, having been badly burned in 2011. This basic White House motive should have been obvious for weeks.

However much damage this crisis has done, much of it was the direct result of the refusal by many non-Tea Party Republicans to acknowledge the basic facts of the underlying situation. Republicans steadily refused to acknowledge the actual Dem position — that they no longer would negotiate under threat conditions, because so doing would only mean more use of the tactic later. Republicans spun this situation as a conventional negotiation, and then believed their own spin — and ironically enough, this is what led them to badly underestimate Dem resolve.

The belief Dems could be broken led Boehner to spend weeks floating one solution after another that (he hoped) would be acceptable to the GOP’s Tea Party wing. These were destined for rejection by Senate Dems, precisely because the very thing that made them acceptable to the Tea Party trampled on the core principle Dems had laid down. In so doing, Boehner kept putting off the day that he would have to accept that nothing the Tea Partyers accepted could ever become law and that the prospect for Dem capitulation on Tea Party terms was always a fantasy.

There will be last minute procedural machinations, but barring some truly startling development, Boehner will likely now have to finally face up to the need to let something pass with non-Tea Party Republicans and a lot of Dems. But that’s always where this was headed. As Dem Rep Chris Van Hollen puts it:

“The question from the beginning has been whether Speaker Boehner will stand up to the Tea Party faction. The question today is whether he will stand up to them now. This is a moment when level-headed voices in the House Republican caucus need to stand up. This is a moment of truth for Speaker Boehner.”

(Update: Senators have now reached a deal, and John Boehner is expected to allow a House vote on it.)

* HOUSE REPUBLICANS CLOSE TO SURRENDER: Robert Costa tweets intelligence from a meeting with House Republicans:

They’re ready for what Boehner calls a “tough vote”– a vote where the Rs needs Ds to pass it through the House. “Get it over with,” says one.

But again, this is always where this was headed.

* WALL STREET JOURNAL URGES BOEHNER TO SURRENDER: The Journal publishes a scorching editorial that tears into House GOP follies, arguing that some 20 House conservative have been running the show throughout, and concluding

[T]he most Republicans will get out of this is lower public approval and a chance to negotiate with Mr. Obama again before the next debt-limit deadline. If the Senate passes its compromise, Mr. Boehner will have little choice other than to bring it to the floor and let it pass with votes from either party. Mr. Obama will have to deliver enough Democratic votes to pass it….Republicans can best help their cause now by getting this over with and moving on to fight more intelligently another day.

It will be interesting to see if this prods more House Republicans into accepting the need to allow the Senate deal to pass.

* SENATORS VERY CLOSE TO DEAL TO END CRISIS: The Post overview reports that a deal is very close: Debt ceiling extended until February 7th; government reopened until January 15th, formal budget talks; perhaps a fig leaf for Republicans in the form of increased Obamacare income verification. This is key:

Democrats dropped their demand to delay a new tax on existing health insurance plans, a change intended to benefit organized labor. And Republicans backed off their push to deny the Treasury Department flexibility to manage the nation’s books after Feb. 7, an aborted attempt to ensure that the short-term extension of the debt limit doesn’t somehow drag on into the spring.

That will allow for some control over the next debt limit deadline. What this shows, again, is that the Senate plan is coming together in a context where the threat of disaster isn’t being wielded by one side as leverage, and standard horse-trading is taking place.

* WHY CONSERVATIVES KILLED THE LATEST HOUSE GOP PLAN: This, also from the Post write-up, is almost comical:

Conservatives quickly complained that it wasn’t enough. The bill would not cut spending, they said, or reform entitlement programs, or erase a clause in the health law that requires employers to provide coverage for contraception. And it clearly would not achieve their ultimate goal of ending the program they call Obamacare.

Also, it didn’t call for Obama to endorse his own impeachment, so of course it was a non-starter.

* A FINAL TEST FOR TED CRUZ AND MIKE LEE: Their anti-Obama crusade is in shambles, but as Jonathan Weisman reports, they have one last chance to inject chaos into the process and even cause a debt ceiling breach. If Reid and McConnell can reach a deal, here’s what happens:

Senate leaders expect to use a parliamentary maneuver that will allow the majority leader to quickly move the deal to the Senate floor on Wednesday. With unanimous consent, a final vote would come the same day. But if Senate hard-liners object, the Senate would have to wait until Friday, then muster 60 votes to cut off debate. Further obstruction would mean the final vote would happen Saturday, when the bill would go back to the House.

And so if a deal is reached, it will be on Cruz and Lee to decide whether or not to inflict maximum damage on the country en route to a GOP surrender which in this scenario would happen either way.

* MARKETS WILL GET JITTERY IF DEAL REMAINS ELUSIVE: Politico talks to Wall Streeters who predict that the markets will begin to react very badly if a deal is not reached by Thursday:

A deal better be on its way to completion by Thursday – the date flagged by  Treasury for when it will run out of the ability to borrow – or else stocks will  tank, interest rates will spike and markets will presumably force quick action  in Washington, as they did with the Wall Street bailout in 2008…“Is Thursday a hard and fast date? No, but the Oct. 17th threshold is  psychologically important if there’s no debt ceiling resolution,” said Joseph  Quinlan, chief market strategist at U.S. Trust.

You could see a situation where all of this begins to happen, even as Cruz and Lee — who started Republicans down the road to this whole mess — continue to delay a debt ceiling hike because, well, because they can.

* MORE BAD NEWS FOR OBAMACARE: A new study finds that enrollment for Obamacare has been disappointing indeed, thanks to the program’s awful Web site glitches. The administration disputes this view, and adds this pushback:

Aneesh Chopra, who served as the White House’s first-ever chief technology officer during President Obama’s first term, said the analysis actually captured the public’s sustained interest in signing up for health insurance on the federal exchange. He noted that while the total number of visitors to the site is interesting, it matters much more that one million Americans created an online account. “Account creation is always the holy grail. That’s the moment that matters,” Chopra said in an interview.

* AND IS A DEMOCRATIC WAVE FORMING? Via Taegan Goddard, Stuart Rothenbert reassesses:

Last week I observed that I hadn’t yet seen “compelling evidence” that a Democratic political wave could be developing. I can no longer say that after seeing the recently released NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

What else?

RELATED:  Cringe-worthy effects of the shutdown

 

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.