Its sounds like Congressional Republicans are manning the lifeboats to flee the sinking “Good Ship Default Deschmault Do What We Say Or We Don’t Raise the Debt Limit.” The ship is sinking — not because of it’s long name, but because political pros on both sides think it would be disastrous for the GOP if House Republicans triggered a national and perhaps international financial meltdown. And perhaps the Republican retreat where GOPers heard about the party’s increasingly lousy image — plus the latest poll — has something to do with it. Talking Points Memo:
The jig is up. Republicans are going to increase the debt limit. Probably for free.
And in the end, their change of heart took about two weeks.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who on January 4 warned that Republicans might force the country past the debt limit, now says “We will raise the debt ceiling. We’re not going to default on our debt.”
Influential conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer says Republicans should increase the debt limit in small increments, but without any real hope of using it to extract concessions.
The only thing left is for party leaders to talk a conservative rump of House Republicans through the stages of grief ahead of the deadline just over a month from now. That was ostensibly the purpose of the House Republican conference’s three-day retreat in Williamsburg, Va., which comes to an end this afternoon.
And then you’ll note Sean Hannity et. all falling into the new party line.
Over the past 36 hours, Republican House members have been provided a blunt assessment of the consequences of breaching the debt limit, and batted around a variety of options that run the gamut from the most extreme form of hostage taking to effective surrender. In Rep. Paul Ryan’s words, they’ve set expectations — presumably quite low. What they haven’t heard yet is an edict from the top that the party must abandon even the pretense of using the debt limit as a source of leverage — that the “Boehner rule,” which requires a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar increase in the debt limit, is really, truly dead. And so the threat continues, however diminished.
The biggest tell of the week didn’t come in an official statement from party leaders or a tightly choreographed press event, but in a couple of glancing thoughts from Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) who moseyed over from the main lodge at the Kingsmill resort to the club house — where organizers confined the press — to chat with reporters about the state of affairs as of Thursday afternoon.
Fleming started off by cautioning his audience of reporters that House Republicans would be hard-pressed to pass a clean debt limit bill, and so would try to coalesce around a bill that both increases borrowing authority and cuts spending.
“I think the Republicans would have a real problem giving the president a clean debt ceiling, even … short term,” he said. “Maybe some would do it, but I think to get a majority of the majority vote, I think it’s impossible.”
Fleming was talking about the Hastert rule — the GOP’s principle that legislation shouldn’t come to the floor unless the majority of the conference supports it. But five minutes later Fleming gave up the ghost.
“I think that the majority of the majority Hastert rule comes out of a time when we had a Republican president,” he acceded. “When you have a Democrat president that’s a very hard thing to achieve sometimes — and not necessarily important.”
The sound you hear is of political goalposts being moved.
But look for GOPers to make this shift in a way so it seems like they are the aggressive ones, forcing the Democrats into a political corner. But (presumably) the Democrats know that’s coming and they will avoid being herded into the corner as they watch Republicans…in what political polls shows is a political corner.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.