The crisis is over, long live the crisis! Jonathan Chait reminds the world that now that the Syria crisis is fading into the background of negotiations that don’t make for great headlines, we have the old crises that I’ve been quite actively fretting about since a couple of days after the last election. And things look really, really bad.
Let’s just talk about the government shutdown for now, because as bad as it is, the Debt Ceiling is far worse. Boehner is not willing to allow a vote on anything that might get bipartisan support. So any bill that goes through the House must pass with only Republican votes. So Boehner came up with an idea that depended upon the hardcore House Republicans to be stupid and crazy. Unfortunately, they are way more crazy than stupid. The idea was that the House would bundle two bills together. One would be the continuing resolution (CR)—just a bill that says that Congress will continue to fund the government as it has been. The other would be the defunding of the evil Kenyan Communist plot to allow people to get healthcare, also known as Obamacare.
The problem with this plan was that the Senate would approve the CR and ditch the Obamacare kill bill. As Mike Lee put it, “It is not a plan to defund Obamacare—it’s a plan to facilitate the passage of a CR in a way that allows people to claim that they’re defunding Obamacare without actually doing so.” So what Boehner was offering was the opportunity to vote impotently to defund Obamacare for the 41st time in exchange to doing what in normal times would be the most uncomplicated of things. This is because the modern Republican party doesn’t think that anything is as important as the conservative issue de jour. And yes, it does make them unpatriotic; what else would you call a man who thinks that his pet issue is worth destroying the economy and throwing millions more of his fellow Americans out of work?
Given that the Republicans aren’t buying what John Boehner is selling, there is chaos. But not to worry. The House has plenty of time! According to Eric Cantor’s calendar (pdf), the House is not working until next Tuesday. Then they have three and a half days of work and then go on recess for the rest of the month. But after Democratic Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press conference to shame the House for the move, Boehner called off the recess. So now they have eight or nine work days before the government shuts down!
I’m not sure what more time will bring. The House must pass a CR by the end of the month. The hardcore House Republicans are not going to be convinced by some great idea that Boehner comes up with. So this is all going to come down to the last minute when Boehner either does or does not allow a CR to pass with bipartisan support. If he does, we move on to the much more dangerous Debt Ceiling. (We have two weeks for that!) If he doesn’t, the government shuts down, anger builds, the Boehner allows a CR to pass with bipartisan support. I really don’t see any other way forward on this.
I’m not convinced that a government shutdown will hurt the Republicans that much in 2014. But if they cause a Debt Ceiling crisis, I suspect that the elites will punish them in a big way. They will finally see that keeping their marginal tax rates down by an extra couple of percentage points is not worth the harvest they have sown. And that would be catastrophic for the Republican Party as a going concern. But it will be a hell of a price for the American people to pay.