Saturday, October 5, 2013

Two Mildly Encouraging Developments

Well, I see two mildly encouraging reports from the shutdown/debt ceiling standoff.  First, the House has unanimously passed  a bill ensuring the furloughed government workers will get back pay whenever the government reopens.  This means that even the House Republicans have rejected the extreme option of reopening the government in bits and pieces to see how much of it we really need.

More importantly, though, I really hope that this report is true.  It says, in effect, that Republicans know they have lost and that they are simply trying to prolong the shutdown until they have enough cover to add a debt ceiling increase to the bill that reopens the government.  Or, as the article says:
If the speaker were to move on a stopgap spending bill now, without conservative policy priorities attached, it would most likely pass with Republican and Democratic votes. But the ensuing Republican uproar — on and off Capitol Hill — would ensure that there would be no Republican votes to raise the debt ceiling. “It’s common-sense strategy,” one Republican strategist said. “If you’re going to take a bullet, you want to take just one.”
I have thought all along that this is how it would have to play out.  Apparently (for reasons I do not understand) I am wrong that the shutdown takes pressure off the debt ceiling, so my economic analysis is faulty.  But I stand by my political analysis.  The longer the shutdown persists, the greater the pressure to end it, and the more it will be conflated with the debt ceiling in the public eye.  As both political and economic pressure grow, eventually Republicans will have to cave.  It it grows strong enough, Boehner will be able to sneak a debt ceiling increase by relatively unnoticed in a vote to reopen government.  Granted, prolonging the shutdown will be painful, but nowhere near as bad as a debt ceiling breach, so it is a price we will simply have to pay.

The story adds that Boehner does not fear losing his Speakership -- who else would want such a thankless job -- but does fear that passing a continuing resolution too soon would ruin his chances of getting by a debt ceiling increase.

So, if this story is correct, the advice to Congressional Democrats is hold firm and make no concessions until the Republicans are finally ready to crack on the debt ceiling as well.  Then be willing to give some small, symbolic concession to allow Republicans to save face.  The advice to Obama is to get the &^%$$#@! exchanges working so people can actually buy insurance and make the healthcare law irreversible.

My greatest fear is that letting news of this Republican strategy get out will be enough to scuttle it.

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