Saturday, October 12, 2013

This is the most disheartening analysis of the deb ceiling standoff yet.  It makes very clear that neither side is willing to back down because both see their ultimate power as being at stake.  Obama says he will not make concessions because it would encourage the Republican House to use the threat to blow up the economy to extract unilateral concessions.  To Republicans (Tea Party and moderate, Senate and House), to give up the debt ceiling is to give up their ability to get anything passed while controlling only one house.  
That has only reaffirmed to House Republican leaders -- who wanted to avoid a government shutdown -- that they have no choice but to stand their ground on the debt ceiling. Surrounded by a hostile White House and Senate, and with few legislative avenues beyond borrowing and spending bills to impose their agenda, Republicans said capitulating to Obama would cede to Democrats the only institutional authority Republicans possess.
. . . . . . . .
Congressional Republicans were divided over whether to allow the government to shut down. Most opposed the strategy of attempting to defund Obamacare by attaching it to a budget bill needed to keep the government open beyond Sept. 30.
But the GOP is virtually united on the debt ceiling.
Philosophically, they view it as an opportunity to enact the fiscal reforms and spending cuts they believe are necessary to balance the nation's books and foster economic growth. Many believe this is what they were elected to do. Politically, it speaks to House Republicans' desire to reclaim legislative branch authority from the executive branch -- an issue that drives many Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers.
Unlike negotiations over gun control or immigration reform, in which Republicans can influence policy simply by refusing to consider legislation, raising the debt ceiling -- which must happen -- requires Republicans to support it.
. . . . . . . .
“A large part of what the House GOP has been trying to do since the 2010 election is to reassert the power of the legislative branch, not simply imposing their will as a GOP majority,” a former House GOP leadership aide said.
All right.  Let us set aside accusations of hypocrisy, given that Republicans, the most right-wing included, supported virtually unlimited executive power when George Bush was President.  That was almost unlimited power over foreign policy and national security.  They did not dispute legislative supremacy in domestic policy.  As a matter of fact, right-wingers oppose domestic policy as a matter of principle and will happily endorse anything that impedes it.

What Republicans seem to be missing is that our system has a lot of veto points.  For any legislation to pass, it must gain a majority in the House and Senate and be signed by the President.  Or -- example of legislative supremacy here -- if the President is of one party and both houses have a two-thirds majority by the other party, they can override his veto.  And -- in a further display of legislative supremacy -- if Congress passes a program and appropriates money for it, the President may not simply decline to carry out the program and spend the money.  But legislative supremacy has its limits.  Congress can force the President to carry out a program he does not like, but it cannot force him to do a good job.

This means, as the article acknowledges, that controlling only one house of Congress, Republicans can block any legislation they don't like, such as immigration reform or gun control.  Democrats may grumble (they do), but ultimately this is simply politics as usual.  Asserting legislative supremacy here would mean stopping the President from attempting gun control by administrative means, or form failing to enforce immigration rules.

But ultimately, in terms of passing legislation, the only way to assert legislative supremacy is to override the President's veto.  Republicans have a slender majority in the House, well short of the 2/3 needed, and a minority in the Senate.  The accepted way for a party that controls only the House of Congress to get legislation it wants passed is to pass it, and then negotiate with the Senate and President for some sort of compromise.  Give the other party part of what it wants in exchange for them giving you part of what you want.  This is normal democratic politics.  What Tea Party Republicans say when they say they are trying to reassert legislative supremacy, rather than impose an agenda, is that they have never controlled more than one branch of the legislature.  So they are not merely trying to assert legislative supremacy over the executive, but the supremacy of one branch of the legislature over the other, and, indeed, over the other branch in combination with the executive.

Republicans don't want to raise the debt ceiling.  At the same time they (or at least most of them) acknowledge that it "must happen."  Failure to do so would be catastrophic.  So it is hard to see agreeing not to do something unpleasant but necessary to avoid catastrophe is a significant concession, as opposed to an unpleasant duty of the office.  And it is hard to see how refusal to do what everyone agrees is necessary to avoid catastrophe is simply a normal assertion of legislative supremacy, as opposed to hostage taking.

Assuming we avoid default this time, look for more hostage crises down the line.  The Republicans must be defeated.

No comments:

Post a Comment