House Republicans Get Debt Ceiling Giggles

As deadline looms, lawmakers poke fun at their own struggle for a strategy

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

House Speaker John Boehner is trying to corral his Republican conference on how to raise the debt ceiling.

How to raise the debt ceiling became a source of black humor for House Republicans Thursday, with proposals floated by leadership rising and falling while time ticks down toward a month’s-end deadline.

“You know, Mother Teresa is a saint now, but if Congress wanted to make her a saint, and attach that to the debt ceiling, we probably couldn’t get 218 votes for it,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters in the Capitol on Thursday.

“Maybe we ought to defund Obamacare—that worked so well for us,” joked Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “I’m just kidding.”

“I have as much clarity as anybody else does,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said about what House Republicans will demand for their support in lifting the country’s borrowing cap. When asked what he’d personally demand, McHenry joked, “Oh, it doesn’t matter.”

The playful talk underscored a very real problem for Republicans: With the Treasury Department warning the debt ceiling must be raised by the end of February, the party is still stumped about what it wants to try to extract in the latest round of Washington brinksmanship. Republicans abhor the thought of raising the debt limit with no strings attached. But they have struggled to find something that will appease both a large contingent of House Republicans and enough Democrats to pass.

The House Republican leadership has floated attaching a debt-ceiling increase to approval of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline and repeal of an obscure provision in the health care reform law, but both ideas have gone nowhere in the conference, according to leadership aides. The new flavors of the day on Thursday included a temporary fix to protect doctors who treat Medicare patients from steep cuts to their reimbursement payments, as well as restoring billions of dollars in cuts made to military veterans’ pensions in last year’s budget agreement.

Both issues could theoretically get bipartisan support—depending on the details. But President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid remain adamant that the House pass a “clean” debt-limit increase, with no strings attached.

“We shouldn’t be negotiating over the full faith and credit of the United States government,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who chairs House Democrats’ campaign arm. While Israel said he couldn’t commit his vote until he sees what Republicans actually propose and that he prefers a clean hike, he allowed that the latest ideas could get bipartisan support “in concept.”

Reps. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), John Fleming (R-La.), Scott Rigell (R-Va.) and Simpson said they would all support restoring funding for military pensions. Rigell, who represents the largest concentration of military personnel of any congressional district in the nation, said it would “advance a key Republican priority, which is to stand strongly with our men and women in uniform.”

But even while the latest leadership proposals gained some traction, no one was under the illusion that there’s an official party strategy around which to coalesce. As Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) told TIME: “Anybody who says they know is full of it.”

15 comments
DoTheMath555
DoTheMath555

Joking about their reckless disregard for our economy is not quite as bad as GWB looking under his desk for WMDs, but their sense of humor is still a bit odd.

RobertNguyen
RobertNguyen

Just make the Dems an offer they can't refuse and that to reduce Congress' salary by 50%...

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

To quote a GOP deep thinker from the last time they did this


"We will not be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't even know what that is"


There ladies and gentlemen is the reason our recovery hasn't been faster or more widespread.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

Has anyone ever received a blank ransom note before?

bobcn
bobcn

So these clowns know that they want to renege on the budget that was just passed and threaten to default, which would probably throw the world's economy into depression.  They just don't know why.  And they think its funny.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

I just now heard the Boehner quote. 


It wasn't “You know, Mother Teresa is a saint now, but if Congress wanted to make her a saint, and attach that to the debt ceiling, we probably couldn’t get 218 votes for it,” 


He said “You know, Mother Teresa is a saint now, but if Congress wanted to make her a saint, and attach that to the debt ceiling, we probably couldn’t get 218 Republican votes for it,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters in the Capitol on Thursday.



He's talking about his caucus. 

joplingirl
joplingirl

At what point do these people just go to work and do their jobs?????Endless hearings, lots of rancor......But, getting REAL work done for the American people??? Nope--it's all sound bites for conservative media and camera time with Fox News....Putting politics aside, it is very hard for me to respect people who collect a taxpayer funded salary and have NO work ethic. It is shameful and I hope voters wake up to this laziness and elect some people who will focus on OUR problems instead of their next election. 

jmac
jmac

Put a clean bill up and it passes.   Simple.  


As to reversing the 1% cost of living adjustment tot he military - that would raise the deficit by 5.6 billion over ten years.  They'd have to cut somewhere else or - yet again - look like hypocrites.   Which they already look like since they passed a budget that needs to be paid.  

ParthaNeogy
ParthaNeogy

When Congressmen preen and posture, roil the markets and threaten a fragile economy, and finally dissolve into giggles about the debt ceiling, it is time for voters to take a long hard look at the people they are electing.  

billbear1961
billbear1961

@bobcn  And yet the American people, in their astonishing wisdom, may hand the Senate over to these "comical" gangsters in November?


Those who are lucky enough, mind you, to actually have their RIGHT to vote respected . . .


*I* am not laughing.


I am near despair.


:-(

outsider
outsider

Is it me, or does it strike anyone else as nuts that we'd not only be quoting beohner, but kind of agree with him?

It feels dirty somehow.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@outsider  When he's right he's right. 


Frankly as much as his caucus has embarrassed Boehner I'm surprised he isn't more up front about how dysfunctional they are.