The bottom line in the debt limit showdown, the ultimate reason for the impasse and the impending apocalypse, is this: John Boehner and the Tea Partiers in the House of Representatives have not passed, and apparently cannot pass, anything at all.
The United States Government reached statutory debt limit in May. We’re now a week away from exhausting every way around that, at least according to the Treasury Department. And the House of Representatives has not passed a debt limit extension. They haven’t passed a clean one, and they haven’t passed one with conditions. It seems highly unlikely to me that Speaker Boehner’s plan to raise the debt limit in stages will pass the House. Indeed, after months of wrangling, there still doesn’t seem to be any plan that can pass the House.
So far, the closest they’ve come was in passing their Cut, Cap, and Balance scheme, but that did not include a debt limit increase; it only contained a commitment to do so if, among other things, Congress sent a specific Balanced Budget Amendment to the states. And yet CCB passed by a slim partisan margin, not even getting close — in the GOP-controlled House! — to the two-thirds needed to pass an Amendment and send it on to the states.
The bottom line is this: even if the House constituted the sole branch of government, it’s really not clear that the Republicans who run it could figure out a way to get the debt limit increased. Too many House Republicans either have no idea what they’re doing or actively welcome a default. And without them Republicans must appeal to at least some Democrats just to get anything through the House — which is a problem for those Republicans who are terrified of being labeled RINOs if they cut any deal with Dems at all, ever, regardless of what they get in return.
Perhaps that will change over the next week, but until then it’s sort of irrelevant what Barack Obama is up to or what anyone in the Senate says. As long as there’s absolutely nothing that can pass the House, that’s really where the action is.
Or rather, that’s where the action is unless the president decides to blow through the limit without Congressional action. Which, if the House just can’t act, may be his best and only remaining choice.