Boehner Wants Help

Please HelpDepending on my mood, I find the whole John Boehner Debt Ceiling government shutdown soap opera amusing or infuriating. I haven’t yet had my tea, so this morning I am angry, but I can still see the farcical elements to it. As I discussed yesterday, Boehner can’t even get his caucus to vote for a continuing resolution (CR) without simultaneously defunding Obamacare. That in itself is extremely frustrating. What is the House Republican Caucus—a kindergarten class? Since when do legislators think that just because they don’t like some law, it gives them carte blanche to not do their jobs until they get their way? Clearly, the Republicans have worked themselves up into an unsustainable froth over what is after all their own fucking law. And it may very well end in their destruction, even if they don’t go quietly.

Since Boehner couldn’t get his caucus to make a reasonable deal, now he is turning to Obama and the Democrats. What he wants is a deal that will maintain the support of a majority of his caucus that enough Democrats will vote for to allow passage. As such, he wants to link the CR with the Debt Ceiling. But this isn’t a negotiation—at least in the common sense of the word. According to Boehner, the federal debt is killing the country. In fact, the Treasury Department released figures yesterday, and the deficit is down to its 2008 level—the level before the financial crisis. But facts don’t much matter in this case; the deficit is killing us because the Republicans think the deficit is killing us. What’s more, this killer deficit can only be stopped with spending cuts. There can be no tax increases. And the spending cuts must come only from programs that Republicans don’t like. So there cannot be any military cuts, even though it is the most bloated program we have. By Boehner’s definition, negotiation means that the Democrats agree to do everything that he wants.

The administration and the Senate Democrats are playing hardball:

[Treasury Secretary Jack] Lew and Congressional Democrats held firm that they would no longer negotiate on raising the debt ceiling, which they see as the duty of the party in power in the House. And they made it clear to the speaker that they would never accept Republican demands to repeal, defund or delay Mr. Obama’s signature health care law. White House officials dismissed it as “a nonstarter.”

“I had to be very candid with him and I told him directly, all these things they’re doing on Obamacare are just a waste of their time,” said Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the Senate majority leader. “Their direction is the direction toward shutting down the government.”

To add insult to injury, both Reid and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said they felt sorry for Boehner. I agree. But it is hard to feel too sorry for him or any of the less crazy Republicans. They are, after all, reaping what they have sown. You can’t set up your own alternative “think” tanks and media outlets, tell all your base that Obama is a Kenyan Manchurian Candidate, and not expect that they aren’t going to believe the scare stories. John Fleming, the Louisiana Republican said, “Obamacare is the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress. It is the most existential threat to our economy… since the Great Depression…” I doubt that Fleming could explain why it is so dangerous. It is just that he’s been told by important thinkers like Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist.

So buckle your seat belts because it is going to be a bumpy month. My best guess at this point: government shutdown; country wide freak out; Republicans cave; mostly clean CR; clean Debt Ceiling; Republicans lose a few more seats in the House in 2014.

Update (13 September 2013 11:11 am)

Ed Kilgore has a great take on what’s going on:

We have arrived, friends and neighbors, at a big-time teachable moment for the Republican Party, if only the White House and congressional Democrats will recognize it. They need to slowly and clearly, using hand puppets if necessary, make it clear that the pleasure of getting to deal with John Boehner is not so great that they are willing to “compromise” between sanity and insanity on the fiscal front to help him out of his jam. Boehner’s effort to distract his troops from hostage-taking on appropriations to hostage-taking on the debt limit—a vastly more dangerous gambit—should have been the final sign that he’s no better than the “wacko birds” who have mainly become a hobgoblin he can use to scare Democrats into concessions. “Help me,” he cries. “Give me spending cuts or they’ll shut down the government. Give me an Obamacare delay or they’ll destroy the economy!” No more, please. Democrats have the leverage of controlling the White House and the Senate, and won’t gain any more leverage via a phony partnership with John Boehner that just puts off the day when conservatives come to grips with the fact that losing two consecutive presidential elections means they don’t get to call the shots.

If Boehner’s not willing to risk his position by truly standing up against the destructive habits of his conference, then don’t throw him a life preserver as he flounders; throw him an anvil. The sooner his double game comes to an end, the sooner we can have either serious fiscal negotiations or a real fight that makes everyone’s true position clear.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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