Right now, if you want to figure out what is going to happen in the fight over the debt ceiling, ignore nearly everything being said in public. So long as the vote on the balanced-budget amendment is looming for the House, very few if any House Republicans are going to say anything nice about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan. And speaking of the McConnell plan, those saying there are not enough votes for it or they won’t vote for it seem to be jumping the gun just a tad. There is no McConnell plan on the table yet. (And nothing much on that front was accomplished over the weekend.) If no other plan can get through both the House and Senate and the McConnell plan includes substantial cuts identified by the Biden discussions, could if fly? Sure, but we won’t know that for days and certainly not until Republicans have their votes on a balanced-budget amendment.
This is a downer for those of us trying to cover the story. There is plenty of posturing and nothing much happening. It is like waiting for paint to dry. But in this case no one has taken out the brushes. Not yet, at least.
But consider what is NOT going to happen. There won’t be a tax hike. There is not now and there won’t be enough votes in either house for that. It’s not just Republicans who have drawn the line in the sand. There are many Senate Democrats up for re-election in red states who want no part of a grand or ungrand bargain that could be use to paint them as tax hikers.
We know the debt commission plan is not going to pass. President Obama never made any effort to champion that. Imagine, by the way, how the dynamic would have changed had Obama and the Democrats backed the Bowles-Simpson commission’s recommendations and demanded a vote on them. For a number of Republicans it would have been a tough moment. But they have been saved by the president’s unwillingness to offer concrete proposals on tax reform, entitlement redesign or much of anything else.
Conversely, there is a high likelihood that there is some lowest common denominator amount in cuts ($1 trillion? $2 trillion?) that both parties would find beneficial to include in a deal.
Other than that, it’s not clear what is going to emerge. And the smartest pols are saying as little as possible and/or keeping their options open. At some point, they’ll be glad they did.