After a meeting with his Republican conference, Speaker of the House John Boehner (Ohio) announced he would seek a six-week increase in the debt limit in exchange for talks on a range of issues with the president. The elephant in the room is the government shutdown.
Will the president insist that end as well before talks? Will Boehner have to go back to get rid of what has become an albatross around the House’s neck? When I asked multiple leadership offices, the surprising answers were, “Unclear,” and, “We just don’t know yet.” However, a senior aide made clear that “if the president accepts our offer, it will pass.”
The White House then will have to decide whether to retreat on its ultimatum that unless the government was funded, there would be no talks. Of course, the debt-ceiling measure isn’t really abiding by the president’s demand that the debt ceiling be extended because the increase is temporary. In others words, we’ll be back to a standoff if an agreement isn’t reached, and the threat of a default will loom over the talks. A senior aide told me that discussions with the White House would begin “immediately” about whether the government shutdown had to end before talks could begin.
The president could give the Republicans a bone by saying, for example, that he would support the mini continuing resolutions already passed. If he holds firm, the House leadership will suffer a grievous blow, and the stalemate returns to square one.
Finally, the shutdown squad has placed a burden on leadership that it would not otherwise have. The House can’t give up without a revolt. The shutdown serves no purpose and yet may block talks. Jim DeMint and the Senate right-wingers can be thanked for that.