Friday, July 29, 2011

Debt Ceiling Thoughts II: It’s Crunch Time

As I type this the Republican House has passed speaker of the house John Boehner’s proposal on the deficit by a 218-210 margin about an hour or so ago with no Democrats voting for it and a number of Republicans opposing it. While plans for a vote yesterday on a deal were halted due to lack of support from the tea party newcomers, Boehner had to offer a number of compromises to appease the “tea party” wing and get their votes, including a balanced budget amendment and other tea party favored positions in order to get it passed by the minimum of votes.

The plan, which only extends the debt ceiling for six months ended up being yet another form of political theater. The Senate quickly shot it down by a 59-41 vote (thus guaranteeing it wouldn’t reach President Obama). As the standoff continues, a reported refusal of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell to negotiate at this point means the current polarization will continue as the August 2nd deadline gets closer (at this point: Tuesday)

As I said in the previous post, I think odds are the debt ceiling will get raised. It’s been passed 90 times since 1940 and in the past it used to be considered a must pass bill (thus, usually done at the last minute). However, while there may be a last minute situation, things are in scary mode. The Republicans are quickly learning that their new enemy might not be the Dems or any liberal boogeyman but the newbies that got elected in 2010. As recently as the end of last year Boehner referred to the debt ceiling vote as “the first really big adult moment for the new Republican majority.” However, the mainstream in the GOP are currently learning that the danger of using a possible bully pulpit to force people to cave can backfire if they decide you’re not worth listening to.

So what will happen now? Who knows. There’s a chance that the debt ceiling will get a last minute vote and tragedy may or may not happen. There’s also an equally good chance that the far right in the GOP will let the country fall, hoping in some form of twisted glee that everyone will blame Obama for it. As for the possibility of invoking the 14th amendment and having Obama do it that way, the White House said they wouldn’t do that but at this rate there’s a chance he might have no other choice).

Why do I have a feeling that the tea party faction might end up having at least one weekend meeting similar to a pivotal scene from the movie Network? In the fight leading up to now, GOP attempts to have financial experts explain to the tea party types hasn't worked, but both parties are beholden to Wall Street in a lot of ways. And I have a feeling the party leaders may realize that if everything defaults the financial types will throw more cash to Obama and company.

However, at this point, everything seems to be conjecture. Previously it was a matter of course that the debt ceiling would be raised at the last minute but when you have people who are hell bent on making sure the President fails by any means necessary, under guidance from non elected power brokers (seriously, I don’t recall anyone electing either Karl Rove or Grover Norquist), it’s hard to say what will happen. At this point it’s a 55-45 chance that the debt ceiling will get raised but how we get there, and more importantly what gets sacrificed along the way, could lead us down the path for a far crueler future than anybody would’ve thought possible a year ago.

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