Sunday, January 26, 2014

GOP setting up another fake fight over debt ceiling ? New Fiscal Showdown Builds Over Debt Limit due to be exhausted by late February ......

GOP folding in record time ?

Is the GOP already giving up on the next debt-ceiling standoff?


Politico says yes, with good reason. The shining lesson of the debt-ceiling brinksmanship we’ve all watched over the past two and a half years is that Boehner and McConnell, for prudent reasons, simply will not allow the country to experience a technical default. The risk to the economy and to the GOP’s political hopes is too great. If that’s how they’ve approached the previous standoffs then of course they’re going to take the same approach in an election year when the party’s poised to recapture the Senate. The motto for Republican members of Congress in 2014 is “no sudden moves” — or at least it should be. As Bill Kristol noted the other day, there’s still a chance for a seriously self-sabotaging move on immigration.
Question, though. If the game plan next month is to fold and then sit back while ObamaCare’s foibles destroy the Democrats’ chances in November, why was Paul Ryan telling people in December after the much-derided budget deal to stay tuned for the GOP’s debt-ceiling demands? Why did Mitch McConnell say just three days ago that a clean debt-ceiling hike with no concessions for the GOP would be “irresponsible”? That’s an odd way to prepare your base for a letdown.
The most senior figures in the House Republican Conference are privately acknowledging that they will almost certainly have to pass what’s called a clean debt ceiling increase in the next few months, abandoning the central fight that has defined their three-year majority.
The reason for the shift in dynamics in this fight is clear. Congress has raised the debt limit twice in a row without drastic policy concessions from President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats, essentially ceding ground to Democrats. Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are again ruling out negotiations over the nation’s borrowing limit, which would leave Republicans fighting against a unified Democratic front. It’s a tricky situation for the GOP in an election year: They would have to pass a clean debt limit bill or risk default…
“I’ve been saying publicly that once we voted for the budget, you knew that you were going to get a clean debt ceiling,” said conservative Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), referring to the recently passed budget deal that he voted against. “The time to fight for spending cuts is when you’re talking about spending, not at debt ceiling time. So when people caved on the budget and caved on the [Ryan-Murray] agreement, it’s really hard for them to come back and say, ‘We don’t want to increase the debt ceiling’ when they’ve already voted for something that increases the debt.”
According to Politico, “At least a dozen Republican aides and lawmakers are highly skeptical they will be able to craft something that will attract the support of 217 GOP lawmakers.” Really? I can think of something that would, or should, get 217 Republican votes: Repeal the “risk corridor,” i.e. bailout, provisions for insurers in ObamaCare. Krauthammer’s beenpushing that for weeks, in fact, as the ultimate poison pill for Obama and vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the Senate. If O and Harry Reid want a debt-ceiling hike, all they have to do is agree not to shovel taxpayer money at an industry that’s struggling to cope with the adverse selection chaos engineered by Obama’s big policy “achievement.” If I were Boehner, I’d call a presser today and announce that as my one and only demand, just to maximize the time for Republicans to push the “do Democrats support another bailout or don’t they?” message in the media before we hit the debt limit. Obama knows what it would mean for the insurance industry potentially if the risk corridor life raft is suddenly towed away, so he’ll force Reid to bottle the idea up. But that’s okay; the point here isn’t to force Reid to pass it, which the GOP can’t do, but merely to have that lone reasonable demand dangling out there in the public eye to show voters where the Democrats’ priorities are. If Boehner has to pass a clean debt hike at the eleventh hour, fine, but at least extract a pound of political flesh for it first. It’s a no-brainer as far as I can see. Why aren’t they doing it already?

New Fiscal Showdown Builds Over Debt Limit

By Michael R. Crittenden and Pedro Da costa
Republican lawmakers insisted Sunday that any increase in the nation’s borrowing authority should have policy changes attached, a demand at odds with White House officials and Senate Democrats, who held firm in their position that Congress must pass a “clean” debt-limit increase.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” said it was “irresponsible” and “unreasonable” for President Barack Obama to call on Congress to raise the debt ceiling without being open to policy changes.
White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer countered that Republicans should “spare the country the drama” of another fiscal showdown like the one that led to a government shutdown in October.
“The American people should not have to pay the Republicans in Congress’ ransom for doing their most basic function, which is paying the bills,” Mr. Pfeiffer said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Democrats and Republicans girding for another political fight over increasing the nation’s debt limit do not have a lot of time to debate the issue. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, in a letter to Congress last week, said the U.S. government would exhaust its borrowing powers by late February without action by Congress.
The White House and Senate Democrats have repeatedly said they are not open to negotiating with Republicans on policy changes in return for increasing the debt ceiling. Mr. Pfeiffer confirmed that position Sunday and was echoed by top Democratic leaders.
“We don’t want to risk the full faith and credit. We can debate all of these other issues at a different time and place,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Republicans lawmakers have already begun to consider what policy riders they could attach to a debt-ceiling increase to force negotiations. House Republicans leaders are mulling a number of discrete policy changes, including some to the 2010 health-care law, as their opening gambit in negotiations with Democrats. A decision on how to proceed is likely to come after a House GOP retreat in Maryland at the end of this week.
“It’s worth noting, in the past the debt ceiling has been the most effective lever point for structural reform,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said on “Face the Nation,” insisting that “we shouldn’t just write a blank check.”

How far Republican leaders will push the issue remains an open question. Democrats are quick to point out that Republicans shouldered much of the blame for October’s government shutdown, while GOP leaders are wary of distracting voters’ attention away from the rocky rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
“We should not play Russian roulette with America’s economy,” Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

McConnell sets up fight over debt limit

Getty Images
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Sunday that Republicans should oppose raising the debt limit without including a measure to reduce the nation’s debt, setting up a likely fight with Democrats when Congress tackles the issue next month.
“I think for the president to ask for a clean debt ceiling when we have a debt the size of our economy is irresponsible. So we ought to discuss adding something to his request to raise the debt ceiling that does something about the debt or produces at least something positive for our country,” he said on "Fox News Sunday."

McConnell suggested attaching approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline to a debt-limit increase and, when prompted, said changes to ObamaCare could also be an option.

His comments signal a potential fight next month. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has said the limit must be raised by late February to avoid default, an outcome that analysts agree would be catastrophic for the U.S. economy. McConnell said the fight wouldn't go to a default.
"We're never gonna default. The Speaker and I made that clear," he said.

Speaking immediately before McConnell on "Fox News Sunday," White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said that President Obama’s position on the debt limit — that he won’t negotiate over its passage — remains the same.

“The American people should not have to pay the Republicans in Congress ransom for doing their most basic function, which is paying its bills,” he said.

McConnell said Obama’s request for a clean debt-limit increase was “unreasonable” and “irresponsible.”

“We ought to attach something significant for the country to his request to increase the debt ceiling. That’s been the pattern for 50 years, going back to the Eisenhower administration,” he said.

“I think it’s the responsible thing to do for the country and I think he’s the one that’s being irresponsible,” McConnell added of the president.
McConnell's comments align Senate Republicans with House Republicans on the debt limit. GOP leaders in the lower chamber have indicated they also hope to gain concessions from the debt-limit fight.
And they align McConnell, at least strategically, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a main conservative antagonist in the Senate who led the push to shut down the government over ObamaCare funding last year, and butted heads with McConnell in the process.
“Of course we should do something.  We shouldn't just write a blank check,” Cruz said on CBS’s "Face the Nation," when asked whether Republicans should demand concessions to raise the debt limit.

Cruz, however, suggested those concessions should come in the form of “structural reforms,” along the lines of the Budget Control Act, which was passed during the debt-limit fight of 2011 and created across-the-board budget cuts.

“What the president is saying is he just wants a blank credit card to keep growing and growing the debt, and I think that's irresponsible.  I think it's irresponsible to our kids and grandkids to stick that debt on them because we can't live within our means,” Cruz added.
But a prominent Democrat, speaking after Cruz on "Face the Nation," said — evidently unaware of McConnell's earlier comments — that he was confident that Republicans wouldn't follow Cruz into default.
"I would say this, I have good news on the debt ceiling," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). "I do not believe that Republican leaders will follow Ted Cruz over the cliff once again.”