At some point, you just have to learn to stop worrying and love default. And I think I may have reached that point. This morning at around 7:18, I got an email from the New York Times, House Outlines Alternative to Senate Deal on Spending and Debt Limit. It said that the House Republicans had been given a look at the Senate plan that Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell had been working on over the last few days. And the House was in the process of producing a counter proposal.
Jump ahead to 8:50—roughly an hour and a half later. The New York Times emails me, House Republicans’ Fiscal Plan Collapses. I laughed aloud. After days of negotiations in the Senate, the House looks at the plan for an hour and decides that there is nothing that can be done. Brilliant.
Where does this leave us? Well, John Boehner said, “We’re trying to find a way forward in a bipartisan way that would continue to provide fairness to the American people under Obamacare.” That too is funny, because it is so obviously a lie. Boehner knows that he already has a bipartisan way out of this mess: if McConnell signed off on the deal, then there are at least 17 House Republicans who will vote for the bill and all of this will then be over—at least for a while.
I can see why the House is balking at the Senate deal. It really is reasonable. And more to the point, it is an actual deal. The Republicans get the income verification on the healthcare exchanges and the Democrats get a delay of the reinsurance tax that unions don’t like. It isn’t much of a deal, but then, it isn’t much of an extension. It would only reopen the government until 15 January 2014 and raise the Debt Ceiling until 7 February 2014. For the House Republican caucus, this must sound like madness. They were promised that if they just misbehaved long enough they would get Obamacare repealed and the full Paul Ryan budget enacted. This deal is weak tea indeed.
It does seem that some deal will be reached. To a large extent, this is all political theater. I think it would have been better if the Senate bill had come out tomorrow. Presenting it this morning gives the House at least a day to play around and posture about how unfair this all is. There are a lot of people in the Republican Caucus who will not vote for anything. So will some token addition like repeal of the medical device tax really give Boehner the political cover he needs to bring the bill for a vote? And even more important: will the Democrats go along with that? I don’t think they should, even if many of them are for the policy. This is a 3 month extension; nothing as large as that should be part of the deal. Hopefully, we will get the Senate bill passed. Tomorrow will be critical.