House GOP Postpones Debt-Limit Fight–For Now

Republicans' short-term suspension of the debt limit is a tactical retreat, but it sets up another budget showdown very soon.

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PETE MAROVICH / EPA

House Speaker John Boehner and members of the House Republican leadership speak to the media shorty after the House passed a bill that would suspend the debt ceiling on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 23, 2013.

The House on Wednesday passed a Republican plan to suspend the U.S. borrowing limit until mid-May, postponing a fiscal standoff that could have torpedoed the U.S. economy and further damaged the GOP‘s brand.

The bill passed, 285-144, with the support of the vast majority of Republicans and several dozen Democrats. Senate Democrats mocked the legislation but signaled they would pass it, and the White House issued a statement saying it “would not oppose” the measure, paving the way for a stopgap solution that lifts the burden of another debt-ceiling crisis until May 19.

Even by the surrealist standards of the House of Representatives, the measure is kooky. First, it suspends the debt-limit rather than raises it — a semantic distinction that allows members to assure pitchfork-wielding constituents that they didn’t vote for more debt, but raises the question of why Congress doesn’t simply permanently jettison an arcane provision that has twice threatened the U.S. with default in two years. Second, it requires both houses of Congress to pass a budget, a feat the Senate hasn’t managed in nearly four years. If either chamber fails to meet that challenge by April 15, members don’t get paid. That stipulation may be an effective sop to a public that sees congressmen as coddled fat cats, but it also may run afoul of the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

The move was a sharp tactical retreat by House Republicans, who had sworn to extract matching spending cuts for every dollar the U.S. borrowing authority is raised. This debt-limit suspension isn’t contingent on spending cuts, or the adoption of a balanced-budget amendment, or any of the other priorities the House GOP has sought to tether to Congress’s paying the bills it has racked up. But for those hoping to avoid a reprisal of the budget brinkmanship that hobbled the economy in the summer of 2011, don’t get too excited.

The House GOP remains determined to slash the size of government at some point during the three fiscal fights — over the debt ceiling, the sequester, and the resolution to fund the government for 2013 — scheduled this spring. They were warned by Wall Street leaders, GOP pollsters and strategists, powerful conservative outside groups, and their own leadership that the debt ceiling was the worst hill to die on. Even Club for Growth boss Chris Chocola, a guy who monitors conservative pure-bloodedness like one of Voldemort’s minions, didn’t oppose the Republican retreat on the issue. The politics were too treacherous. So the GOP re-ordered the budget battles to place the most perilous one at the end.

Which means House Republicans are likely to force a showdown over the sequester — a set of automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense programs, which economists say would wallop the economy if enacted on March 1 — or their threat to shut the government when it runs out of funding on March 27. Unlike on the debt limit, Republicans don’t seem skittish about going to the mat on these issues. They see the national debt as a crisis, and they plan to solve it by creating new crises.”We want to try, in installments, to get a down payment, year by year, on preventing a debt crisis, on balancing the budget and getting this debt under control,” Republican Budget Chairman Paul Ryan explained to reporters at a breakfast Wednesday morning hosted by the Wall Street Journal. “The reason we feel compelled to do this is because if we don’t, we will have a serious problem in this country.”

Agreements will be hard to forge with Democrats, however. The GOP wants spending cuts, but they oppose any deal that includes new revenues. And so while the GOP may have defused its own debt-limit time bomb, the havoc of sequestration or a government shutdown remain in the offing. Ryan, who helped sell the debt-limit suspension to his colleagues, was asked by TIME’s Michael Duffy on Wednesday why threatening to shut the government was a viable point of leverage for a House GOP whose approval ratings are already anemic. Ryan responded: “We don’t have much to lose, do we?”

Maybe they don’t. But a lot of other people do.

50 comments
denmarks47
denmarks47

This registered Independent find the GOP joke.  No real leader, no steering wheel, no clue of what they want to accomplish in order to contend in 2016.  This is pathetic as there needs to be a viable countermeasure to the Obama extreme.  The USA is sailing in a S_____ Storm in a vessel down by the bow and listing to starboard...........................

aztecian
aztecian

more gop obstructionism...dunk the white wing thugs!

BobJan
BobJan

saving money in government. get rid of the republican politicians who do nothing but complain and obstruct.

jmac
jmac

Ryan on why threatening to shut down government was a viable point considering their low approval rating:   "We don't have much to lose, do we?"  

Could we not hang them for treason?  They don't care about others - or America - or the world for that matter as our credit rating effects world markets.   If we had gone into another Great Depression from the Great Recession Bush handed us - they would have been shouting for a World War to improve the economy - that's how stupid they are.  They (and Bush - it's on record) honestly believe wars help the economy.    

gysgt213
gysgt213

No troll feeding. Squirrels on the other hand are under special liberal protection and can be fed at will.

gysgt213
gysgt213

Every tax cut they have previously given out adds or added to the deficit. So that is why we need to slash spending on programs that help people.  People are still going to need the help.  Slashing spending won't make the economic problems go away.  They will still exist.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

”We want to try, in installments, to get a down payment, year by year, on preventing a debt crisis, on balancing the budget and getting this debt under control,”  Paul Ryan explained to reporters. “The reason we feel compelled to do this is because if we don’t, we will have a serious problem in this country.”

Ok, I'm still laughing.  We will have a serious problem?  Who knew?  Moreover, who cares except those guys now, who didn't care when W was in office, or W's daddy, or the grand spender, Ronnie Raygun.  Secondly, Mr. wonk, down payments are typically made once, in the beginning....payments that occur every year are called payments.  Never mind the idea that if you are in deficit, how do you fund the down payment?

roknsteve
roknsteve

The John Boehner Method: If we can't make Pres. Obama look bad, let's make ourselves look good.  Or driving a car with 3 wheels that's missing about 5 lug nuts.  And lots of lug nuts rattling around in the Congress.  What a mess!

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

They just keep playing games.

 Kick the can down the road. Fool their ever shrinking supporters by playing semantics. And, if it comes to shutting the government, Afred E. Newman, or rather Paul Ryan, says "What, me worry?"

outsider
outsider

Even Club for Growth boss Chris Chocola, a guy who monitors conservative pure-bloodedness like one of Voldemort’s minions,

Love it, Alex! Great line. 

sacredh
sacredh

"Ryan, who helped sell the debt-limit suspension to his colleagues, was asked by TIME’s Michael Duffy on Wednesday why threatening to shut the government was a viable point of leverage for a House GOP whose approval ratings are already anemic. Ryan responded: “We don’t have much to lose, do we?”

.

Ryan begins his run for 2nd place in the 2016 elections.

MrObvious
MrObvious

 They see the national debt as a crisis, and they plan to solve it by creating new crises.


Heaven forbid they work for a change but between 11th hour disaster legislation and cattle prods nothing can get this bunch of overpaid bums to do their job.

jdyer2
jdyer2

Just a wild guess, but I would believe they will postpone the fiscal standoff again when mid-May arrives. 

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

@gysgt213 I like the #2 pick. ...Honey Boo-Boo should be the worst show, however.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@gysgt213 Funny list.

Golf Channel "(Your dad will love it.) " 

Yup mine did. 

fitty_three
fitty_three

@roknsteve 

It's all a load of poo, anyway.  Leave it to the GOP to turn it into window dressing, since it's not constitutionally permitted to cut their own pay.

Ahyuh! Ahyuh!

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@bobell

Many people, e.g., Jonathan Chait, are noting that when Paul Ryan, deeply offended by the inaugural speech, declared that

"No one is suggesting that what we call our earned entitlements — entitlements you pay for, like payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security — are putting you in a ‘taker’ category. No one would suggest that whatsoever."

the category “no one” includes one Paul Ryan, who declared back in 2010 that

"Right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government"

Why should we be surprised when a habitual liar like Ryan continues to lie?


Diecash1
Diecash1

@Paul,nnto I'm fine with the repubs kicking the proverbial can down the road because each day that a bad idea is averted is a good day in my book.  Digby's been right about this from the beginning. 

sacredh
sacredh

It is funny that the party of supposed "family values" draws comparisons to the evilest of popular culture touchstones.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@sacredh Paul Ryan/Rand Paul '16! I can't think of a ticket that would lose worse!


Plus, we could nickname them "Paw-Paw."

bobell
bobell

"They don't like me. I'll kill them and me both."

Thanks, Paul Ryan, for that moment of clarity.

bobell
bobell

But of course the national debt is not a crisis. It's quite manageable with a reasonable mix of revenue increases and budget cuts. Both federal spending and the federal deficit have been steadily droppiong.  This ain't the impossible deream.

Buit has anyone seen Republican proposals for eliminating loopholes to raise revenue and for cutting spending?  Specific proposals, that is, not just some generalized "We have a spending problem."  Tell us where the problem is.  Tell us the solutions.  C'mon, Republicans.   What do you really want -- deficit reduction or crises from here to doomsday?

I mean, it's not as if the Demos are frustrating actual Republican plans to do something specific.  The Repubs are all "gimme" but won't say what they want.  This is governance?  If so, I'll take chaos.

outsider
outsider

@jdyer2 


I suspect (and hope) you're right. Which is why Alex asked, why keep it at all? Just abandon it already. 

gysgt213
gysgt213

@Paul,nnto @gysgt213 I like the Fox News bit.

"But when a cable channel can poison the discourse of a nation, well, that's something special. When a channel achieves this with such a caustic mixture of smugness and vitriol, it's even more impressive. When they do all of this while passing off lies as truths and truths as lies, by deliberately deceiving and agitating viewers, that is an achievement worthy of the highest recognition."

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@Diecash1 @Paul,nnto "Digby's been right about this" I have a shortcut on my keyboard for that phrase. Saves so much time.

Certainly better to passively kick the can down the road than aggressively doing harm. 

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

The term "base" has more than one meaning when speaking of the TPers.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@PerryWhite1 @sacredh  Palin?  How could you forget so soon one of their "stars".  And the whole cast of losers will be back....Newt, Pizza guy, Michele Crazy eyes. 

sacredh
sacredh

bobell, you work around some conservative military too. Paul Ryan is getting some serious love from some of the conservatives i work with. They're insisting that they won't settle for another Romney in 2016. It's a long time until the next presidential election, but they're convinced they lost because Romney was too liberal. Christ, I love listening to them. Their recipe for winning sounds so much like another loss to me.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@bobell What they want is to do is eliminate/privatize Social Security and Medicare, and the only way they're going to get that is to scare people with sky-is-falling scenarios. Such as turning every routine measure into a fiscal crisis.

roknsteve
roknsteve

@bobell Even good things can emerge from chaos.  This is madness.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@outsider2011 @jdyer2  They won't abandon it.  Gives them their little root to hang on while the floods of public trust wash over them, almost to wash them away.  Did the D's ever try this move on W?  No, and it was not solely because they like to fund programs, it was partly because they had the idea that despite their differences with W they still had to run a government together....a civics lesson never learned by a lot of the current R's.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@gysgt213  Network news ain't worth much either, as long as it's willing to go along with the deceiving the public for FOX and the Republicans' profit.

outsider
outsider

Palin is done. That's why she's been so quiet. She couldn't capitalize on 08 anymore than she has.

@notLostInSpace @PerryWhite1 @sacredh

sacredh
sacredh

notLostInSpace, i don't understand sitting out the elections either. Even if i didn't like the top of the ticket, I'd vote the down races. I usually vote the republican ticket in the primary race to try to either prolong their fight or get a weaker candidate. Half of the liberals I work with voted for Santorum here in Ohio.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@nflfoghorn I was thinking Rubio but I doubt anyone with a legislative paper trail could pass the primary purity test.

I say give Willard one more shot! The Adlai Stevenson for our times. You know, without the intellect. 

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Huge Hugie won't be accepted.  And--probably due to his name--Jed B[l]ush won't do it.  So what next?

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@sacredh Sitting it out really helps their cause eh?   You only wish they'd sit out the primaries too and let someone reasonable have a chance at the national election!  Or, maybe not, I'm glad they keep throwing themselves on their swords.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

That's a fair point. I know I have republican cow-workers who didn't vote.

That there wasn't a viable candidate running for them (Willard lost, as every republican candidate for president does in Minnesota, and their Senate candidate was edged by 40 some points) may have had more to it as they are more team cheerleaders rather than dyed-in-the-wool rightists so it's hard to know.

sacredh
sacredh

You're probably right although we did have a couple of conservatives at work sit out this election because of Romney.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

My guess is four years ago they swore they wouldn't settle for Willard. They'll settle for who they are told to settle on.

Just like this cycle.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@PerryWhite1 @bobell They have wanted to get their hands on Soc Sec since it was enacted, have done their best to raid it, strip it, ruin it, and when all else fails, float a "the world is ending" hysteria.  We must remain vigilant my friends.  Once they privatize we will forever rue the day.  Funny though, I'm sure it has happened, but I just do not see many people not accepting the money.