Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Two Days (Maybe) and Counting

Following Congress has become really nerve racking.  The differences between the sides by now are so minimal that in a less highly charged atmosphere they could easily be resolved.  But ultimately, the Republicans are determined to get something in exchange for reopening the government and not defaulting and the Democrats are determined not to treat opening the government and raising the debt ceiling as any sort of concession requiring an quid pro quo.

The latest news is that the parties agree to keep the government open until January 15, extend the debt ceiling until February 7, and make some sort of minor change to Obamacare.  The only controversies are what minor change, and whether the Treasury may use "extraordinary measures" to extend the debt ceiling.
Senate attempt at mutual concessions on Obamacare has failed, and the House failed to extract slightly more, including a ban on extraordinary measures.  The Senate is expected to come out with a deal that allows extraordinary measure and makes only one change to Obamacare -- more income verification.

The question next question (assuming a deal is struck) is whether this will pass before the presumed doomsday.  The answer is almost certainly no.  Theoretically, one house could pass the bill tomorrow and one the next day and President Obama have it inscribed at emergency speed so he could sign it.  But no one expects that to happen.  That would require all Senators to give unanimous consent to passing the bill in one day, a measure that any one (cough, Cruz, cough) could block.  Apparently the best anyone can hope for is for Boehner to send a "message" to the Senate, which will prevent, ahem, anyone in the Senate from delaying the bill for more than 30 hours.  But even then, the Senate is expected to pass it no sooner than Saturday, and the House would have to act on Sunday.  Now, the best guess is that an actual default will not occur when the clock strikes midnight on October 18, but closer to October 22 (the following Tuesday).  The Tea Party crowd will no doubt claim vindication when raising the debt ceiling is delayed several days past doomsday and doom does not strike.  This will raise the likelihood of a future showdown and default.  Sigh!

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