Jonathan Chait says the jig is up, the debt ceiling hostage crisis is over:
It’s over. House Republicans, following a literal and metaphorical retreat, have announced they plan to lift the debt ceiling without extracting policy concessions. Whatever mini-dramas may follow, the GOP leadership has both recognized the need to abandon their strategy of using the debt ceiling as a hostage and also to recognize this publicly. The GOP announcement came wrapped in a face-saving demand …to let right-wingers believe, or at least claim, that they succeeded in extracting some concession in return for not playing Russian roulette with the world economy. But it’s a superficial gesture. The Senate’s failure to pass a budget resolution has become a ubiquitous Republican talking point, but it’s essentially a meaningless technicality. [...]
The main credit here goes to the Obama administration for recognizing that enmeshing the debt ceiling with policy negotiations was a horrible idea that it had to stop dead in its tracks… The whole key to making Obama’s extortion-squelching plan, and saving American government from endless cycles of hostage drama that would eventually end in a default, was to credibly insist that he would not trade anything for a debt ceiling hike… Now, Republicans are only voting on a three-month extension. But this is a face-saving gesture, too. Once they’ve recognized that the debt ceiling isn’t leverage, they have no reason to keep taking painful votes that expose their members to attack ads.
Steve Benen thinks there’s still too many potential Teapublican “glitches” that could occur to consider this a victory just yet:
Even if we assume Democrats accept the GOP’s retreat, which isn’t a sure thing just yet, GOP leaders may once again run into trouble with their own caucus, leaving John Boehner and Eric Cantor dependent on Democratic votes for the third time in four weeks. In an odd twist, it’s not necessarily the case that those intransigent House Republicans want to default and trash the full faith and credit of the United States — on the contrary, many want the debt ceiling to go up. The problem is they don’t want to vote for it. The New York Times calls this “unofficial group” the “Vote No/Hope Yes Caucus.”
Greg Sargent predicts that caving on the debt ceiling means there will be a government shutdown over sequestration cuts — if for nothing else than for the “Vote No/Hope Yes Caucus” to be able to impress its voter base:
On the debt ceiling, at least, this is a complete cave. As noted below, the mere willingness to raise the debt ceiling temporarily was itself an acknowledgment by Republicans that the threat of default gave them no leverage and that they had essentially lost this fight. Now the three month extension means that in practical terms, it’s essentially been removed from the talks entirely.
The GOP will now stage the battle to get the spending cuts it wants around the threat of a government shutdown. Remember, GOP aides have explicitly conceded that instigating a confrontation will be necessary in order to placate House conservatives and Tea Partyers who wanted to flirt with default in order to get their way, but will ultimately be forced to accept the fact that this just ain’t gonna happen. Remember that quote to Politico? House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.”
And so it looks as if we’ll now have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown, rather than default, so House conservatives can “get this out of their system.”
These conservatives aren’t in the House or the Senate for the public “service.” They don’t care how well or badly the government runs for the majority of Americans. They’re in Congress for personal fame and job security. They have one bottom line, and that’s to impress their hometown, extremist, tea-smelling voter base — and they’ll happily sacrifice the rest of us to prove themselves.