Just when you thought House Republicans learned a searing lesson from the debt-ceiling debacle of last year, they go and do something to prove they are insane. The Post’s Robert Costa reports that House Speaker John A. Boehner is “casting about” for a solution that would raise the debt ceiling and get the votes of his raucous caucus.
Boehner’s inner circle said he is casting about to find a solution that can pass the House without rupturing the fractious Republican conference, in which disagreements over past debt-limit strategies have caused considerable turmoil. He also wants to avoid a dramatic partisan fight with the White House, which has long resisted GOP attempts to extract major concessions on the debt ceiling.
After rejecting two gambits, including yet another stab at kneecapping Obamacare, it looks like folks are coalescing around a plan to raise the statutory limit on the nation’s borrowing for one year in exchange for a restoration in cuts to military benefits. A worthy goal with an unacceptable vehicle.
Ever since the debt-ceiling nonsense of 2011, when Obama exchanged budget cuts for pulling the national and global economy from the edge of oblivion, the president has been very clear. He’s not doing that again. He said so when Republicans tested him 2012 and again in 2013. That they actually are contemplating testing him again is just plain nuts.
What makes the exercise so cynical is that Boehner knows the president will say no to this latest gambit. For if Obama does the military benefits restoration in exchange for a boost in the debt ceiling it will mark the restoration of ceaseless demands for greater concessions from the House GOP. That’s just not going to happen. And everyone seems to know that a clean debt ceiling bill will ultimately pass.
“It’s going to end up being clean anyway,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) said Tuesday. “I don’t see anything they can put on the table that I would support as some sort of trade-off.” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said this: “There is a pragmatism here. You’ve got to know when to hold them and when to fold them. My assessment is that most of us don’t think it’s the time to fight.” A bit cliched, but it is probably the most responsible thing I’ve heard her say — ever.
In a speech to the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) on Monday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned that the “extraordinary measures” his department has relied on to weather previous debt-ceiling fights are of limited usefulness this time around. “[W]e expect our outlays over the coming weeks to exceed our net inflows—largely due to the payment of tax refunds—so we will draw down our cash balance faster than at other times of the year,” he said. “Without borrowing authority, at some point very soon, it would not be possible to meet all of the obligations of the federal government.”
The current suspension of the debt limit runs out tomorrow. The BPC estimates that March 14 is the likely date the government could exhaust “extraordinary measures” and have less cash-on-hand than obligations that must be paid. In other words, that’s the likely date of a first-ever default in the history of the United States.
“So the bottom-line is: Time is short,” Lew said in his speech. “Congress needs to act to extend the nation’s borrowing authority, and it needs to act now.” As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said moments ago, “Let’s just do it!” Yes, let’s. The sooner Boehner makes it happen the better off we’ll all be.
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