“If the United States government, for the first time in its history, chooses not to pay its bills on time, we will be in default. There is no option that prevents us from being in default if we don’t have enough cash to pay our bills.” — Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, adding “Congress is playing with fire.”
The New York Times reports that “shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.”
Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups.
It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told George Stephanopoulos yesterday that there’s no way he’s going to bring up a “clean” debt limit increase for a vote and warned “that the U.S. will default on its debt unless President Barack Obama agrees to make policy concessions.”
“We’re not going to pass a clean debt limit increase,” he said. “I told the president, there’s no way we’re going to pass one. The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.”
Lie. Boehner means there aren’t a majority of Republicans who are willing to pass a clean CR. Why won’t he let it go to the floor for a vote?
Meanwhile on Fox News Sunday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) admitted “we are the ones who did shut the government down.”
But while he reiterated his opposition to the strategy, he also said he would not act to require a vote to reopen the federal government. [...] Though King and at least 19 fellow Republicans have said they would vote for a clean bill to reopen the government immediately, none have voted with House Democrats on repeated attempts to hold a vote on doing so. A discharge petition, a little-used parliamentary maneuver used by a majority in the U.S. House to bring a bill to the floor without the Speaker’s consent, would require 217 signatures.
Kevin Drum explains how the Republican Party as a whole, and with John Boehner as its House Speaker, has become the party incapable of accepting ‘yes’ for an answer: An unnamed Republican congressman interviewed by Bryan York said, “Instead, it’s no, we’re not going to negotiate, we’re not going to negotiate, we’re not going to negotiate. Which means effectively you’re going to try to humiliate the Speaker in front of his conference. And how effective a negotiating partner do you think he’ll be then? You’re putting the guy in a position where he’s got nothing to lose, because you’re not giving him anything to win.”
[...] Here’s the thing: I agree with our unnamed congressman about the device tax. It’s a fairly small thing ($2-3 billion per year) and completely nonessential to Obamacare. It could be eliminated without harm, and it would give Boehner a small bit of face-saving that might allow him to pass a budget. If this had been the GOP’s initial ask, Democrats probably would have given in.
But after weeks and weeks of tea party rage and intransigence, that became impossible. By the end of September, the Republican strategy had become crystal clear: demand unceasing concessions from Democrats at every opportunity without offering anything in return and without any negotiation. A month ago, Democrats might have shrugged over the device tax. Today, they know perfectly well what it would mean to let it go. It means that when the debt ceiling deadline comes up, there will be yet another demand. When the 6-week CR is up, there will be yet another. If and when appropriations bills are passed, there will be yet another. We’ve already seen the list. There simply won’t be any end to the hostage taking. As their price for not blowing up the country, there will be an unending succession of short-term CRs and short-term debt limit extensions used as leverage for picking apart Obamacare—and everything else Democrats care about—piece by piece.
Both King and this unnamed congressman wish their party hadn’t shut down the government, but seem unwilling to do anything about it themselves. And now our government hits the debt ceiling next Thursday. Is there not even ONE Republican member of the House with an intact spine?
Josh Marshall remarks on a profile the Post did on freshman Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL). The focus is how he’s part of the faction who forced John Boehner to trigger the government shutdown and now wants to move along to default on the national debt. How bad will default be?
“I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets,” Yoho told the Post.
Absorb that for a moment. He’s on the team that’s driving this bus. What would at best be a huge jolt to the global economy and more likely trigger a global financial crisis and do irreparable harm to the country, he thinks will actually improve things.
Couple this with the Times article [above] detailing how the current shutdown and soon to be default crisis was planned by a working group of top GOP money men and the major far right and Tea Party pressure groups in the immediate aftermath of the 2012 election.
Brian Beutler details what will happen when America reaches its debt limit:
Once the Treasury can no longer borrow to finance deficits, it will have to arbitrarily slash spending on everything the government does — from defense, to social insurance, to medical research, and eventually to debt service.
The government currently borrows about 30 cents on every dollar, which means that irrespective of the impact on U.S. creditworthiness and global financial markets, the effects on these services will be enormous. Probably something like four or five times the impact of sequestration, but with no exemptions. And the only way to exempt anything (at least in theory) is to either force the administration to direct revenues toward favored services, which would mean much deeper cuts to everything else, or to allow the Treasury to borrow specifically to finance those services. In other words, to increase the debt limit but only for targeted purposes.
[...] The GOP’s current position thus boils down to to the laughable idea that nothing’s more important than reopening federal monuments, funding clinical trials, and spending money on veterans services for two weeks, until we breach the debt limit and they have to be shut down again.
Paul Krugman thinks that “GOP leaders fundamentally misjudged the situation (and Obama’s incentives). And now they have backed themselves into a position where they don’t know how to back down — they have to extract concessions or they’ll have been “disrespected,” in a situation where Obama simply can’t make any concessions without destroying his own credibility and betraying the fundamental norms of governance.”
So Krugman describes what the endgame will look like on Oct. 17:
The assumption has been that Republicans will finally be moved to act by the market freakout. But given their behavior so far, why would you believe this? …My bet now is that we actually do go over the line for a day or two. And what ends the immediate crisis is not Republican action but a decision by Obama to declare himself not bound by the debt ceiling. He can’t even hint at this possibility until the thing actually happens, because he has to keep the focus on the Republicans, and he has to make them demonstrate their utter irresponsibility before he can take any extraordinary action.
But maybe I’m wrong; maybe Obama’s lawyers have concluded that there’s really nothing he can do. If so, God help us all.