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Budget Ceiling Reduxxx: What happens this time?

Uploaded: Sep 22, 2013
Since we all did so well spinning the wheel of fortunes in the Syria chemical weapons crisis two weeks ago, let's now take a shot at predicting the outcome of the next regular coming of the debt ceiling 'crisis.' For anyone who's been locally pre-occupied with trailside bums, violent evictions, a very, very dead deer or those fabulous A's (and who hasn't?), here's where matters stand.

The federal government must get congressional approval to take-on public debt that exceeds the total it has previously approved. That approval has been sought and obtained 77 times since World War II; the debt figure is currently $16.99 trillion. The first 75 increases were voted without much incident. In return for the most recent two raises, however, the Republican-led House of Representatives extracted significant concessions by holding up the process, risking a government shutdown and eventual default on the country's incurred obligations. Remember that game-of-chicken scene in the original Footloose movie? It's been a bit like that – the Dems swerve first (the tractor-of-state, of course, always ends-up in the canal).

This time, the gambit is seemingly over the impending implementation, at long last, of ObamaCare. Having discovered that voting to repeal it 42 times has not had the desired impact, the House has now voted to defund ObamaCare in return for raising the debt ceiling. Without approval of some increase, the national government shuts down in early October, with default on its bills to follow soon thereafter.

What do you think will happen here? Since I brought it up, I'll take my shot at it. After all, I whiffed completely on Syria (and happily so), so here it is: I think the GOP will overplay its hand on Obamacare, in case that's the hand they're really playing. If not, they may get significant concessions from an Administration intent on protecting its signature achievement.

Option 1 – they really do care about ObamaCare. Being an optimist in the Churchillian sense ("the Americans always do the right thing, after they've exhausted all other options"), I believe the Republicans will blink this time. First, they're taking-on the centerpiece accomplishment of the Obama Administration, and the Prez will fight like hell to keep it. It's not like some unknown budget line-item whose pain can be spread among thousands of small cuts here-and-there. His Party, while increasingly unhappy left-and-right, presents a pretty united front on this issue.

Second, the unnecessary nature of this 'crisis' and the identity of its architects are by now pretty well-understood. If the GOP is really determined to hunker-down on this, they risk blame for the consequences: not just that poor Democrats will be hurt, but that the troops won't get paid, either, and entire economy's fragile recovery will be imperiled. Meaning that rock-ribbed Republican business, big and small, will also be affected. No less a potent normal ally than The US Chamber of Commerce recognizes this and has already called-on the Caucus, publicly, to back-off. Other allie$ will follow

Third, when you look at the Republican House caucus, it's not a monolith. Speaker Boehner presides over a fractious bunch that presents a spectrum of opinion from well-beyond crazy (Mr. Gohmert comes to mind) through traditional conservatives, theocons and neocons to moderate Ripons and RINOs (or, as we used to call them, back when I was one: Republicans). Only 49 of the 234 actually self-identify with the Tea Party, but they are currently running the show. It's not clear to me that the Speaker has the persuasive gifts and tools to hold that coalition together as the other members are asked to carry the water of their most extreme elements.

The situation reminds me of the internal GOP hara-kiri that led them to nominate the likes of Messrs. Aiken and Mourdock, and Ms. O'Donnell. The anti-government, anti-Obama zealots control the inner workings, but sooner or later they have to present their case to a general public that disapproves of their institution's excesses, like this one, by almost 8-1. I doubt that the middle will hold; if I'm a vulnerable Republican, perhaps even just a promise from the Dems not to 'invest' in my seat in 2014 might be enough. The better question may be whether they will so damage their brand that 17-or-more seats change hands next year (recall that in the 2009-11 term, 257/435 seats were Dems).

Option 2: the ObamaCare fight is a diversion. If the GOP is crafty and realistic, they may be using the ObamaCare defunding kerfuffle as a feint to get more of what they really want – like other budget concessions. The idea here is that if you really want to conquer the City of Florence, why not attack Rome first – the Romans may be more willing to give up Florence then, than they would be if you attacked that city directly.

Here, the GOP might 'reluctantly settle' for some other goal that relieved Dems might be inclined to accept to keep the ObamaCare citadel safe. Maybe it's budgetary, but it might also be the Keystone pipeline, carbon limits on power plants, or, I don't know – maybe food for widows and orphans? Hooray – 'crisis' averted! The point is that the Dems would have to be careful here that they don't compromise away more than they must.

These manufactured 'crises' have been an effective tool for the minority Party in extracting concessions from the majority. I'm guessing that whatever fix is achieved this time will also be temporary, to maintain the ploy as a hearty perennial. But what's Your best guess? Is ObamaCare finally 'toast?' What do the Parties want here, and what's likely to happen? Fire away, fiscal cliffhangers!
What is it worth to you?


Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on Sep 23, 2013 at 11:23 am

How about them Oakland A's!! Fourth lowest payroll in baseball and second year in row they win the AL West. Once again, the A's show throwing money at a problem is not the answer, but rather team work,dedication, team chemistry, common goal, hard work, and having a Manager who knows how to get the best out of his workers is the formula for success. This group of people did not even let raw sewage leaking out of broken and outdated pipes and drains into their clubhouse and dug out ruin their concentration and focus.

How about a bipartisian agreement that we let Hillary and Govenor Christie sit out the next election, and give Billy Beane 4 years to try to deal with all the "raw sewage" problems in Washington D.C.?

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Sep 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Hooray for common ground!

It's been hilarious to follow the national sports press' 4-stage approach to A's coverage this season.

Stage 1 -- dismiss and ignore. After all, last year was a fluke, money talks, we're drunk in the east by the time they play ... and how 'bout them Yankees and Sawx!

Stage 2 -- acknowledge their success, but talk about the opponent's tribulations. Having no earthly idea how they do it and too lazy to stay-up late to find out, the writers grudgingly cover A's wins, but talk mostly about the tribulations of their opponents. Dear writers, their worst tribulation was typically that they were playing the A's.

Stage 3 -- dawning recognition. It's still more fun to talk about diversions like sewage in the clubhouse, but a few commentators are just now beginning to get it -- this team is brilliantly assembled and led; they do "everything well." They are not so good that they can skate-by when they blunder (except when playing the Twinks last Thursday), but when they're hitting on all cylinders -- just watch how a real team plays baseball.

Stage 4 -- we knew it all along, and its name is Billy. If the A's go all the way this year, they will canonize Mr. Beane. And claim they invented him, because it's not about the team concept (which is hard), it's about celebrities (which is easy).

This is much more fun than writing about the debt ceiling -- again Andy Borowitz gets is right: "In poll about debt ceiling crisis, Americans, like, Totally excited about the new iPhone." Web Link

Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on Sep 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm

That is good stuff Tom!!

How refreshing was it to hear Coco Crisp state yesterday that he is not the team leader, rather just someone who some of the younger players come to with occasional questions about baseball or life, and he is happy to share any experience with them. Unlike Kobe Bryant or other self absorbed athletes who constantly claim "this is my team", or "I am the leader", Coco Crisp simply hustles every hit out, chases every ball down, and is the first one in the dug out to try to cheer up any player who makes a mistake or is down on himself. Hitting 20 homeruns and stealing 20 bases(without taking peds) the same season is great, but his quiet maturity is what really sets the tone for this A's team.

How about a Beanne-Crisp ticket to turn around Washington D.C., and get rid of self aborbed, special interest funded, professional politicians who do not understand compromise, compromise, and more compromise is what we need from both parties(and what Wall Street has shown recently they also want to get stock prices up)

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Sep 23, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I hope Billy and Coco are both busy -- here -- next year!

There seem to be a lot of A's players who will need contract attention -- no one more important than Coco, the team's leader by example. Whoever called him the team's 'motor' got it right!

As to that peasky debt-ceiling matter: one commentator, who is liberal and may be wishfully thinking, believes that this issue could break-up the uneasy coalition that makes-up the GOP. I'm not sure that the TPers are that addled -- their power comes from the fact that they are necessary to the GOP majority, being more numerous at 49 members than the margin between Repubs and Dems (234 - 201, I think).

If they break away, they lose that influence and the remaining GOPers can than actually deal (read: 'compromise') with the Dems -- then the GOP moderates might ascend. That would be fine with me, but if I know, surely they know it, don't they?

Posted by C. R. Mudgeon, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 1, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Obviously this is a fast-moving topic, but so far at least, the Obamacare debate/fight has been in the context of the budget Continuing Resolution (CR), which is tied to the start of the new fiscal year (today, Oct. 1st), and not directly related to the debt ceiling (which comes a bit later).

The most recent bill passed by the House wasn't really a "defunding" of Obamacare. It basically calls (or called) for a one year delay in the "individual mandate" that requires individuals to buy insurance, and also would require Congress, the President, and their respective staffs to obtain insurance through the exchanges, without subsidy. (Obama had previously "granted" a large subsidy to himself, the Congress, and their staff, apparently believing that he was free to modify Obamacare in this way....). I think if you were to poll people on the specifics of this most recent House bill, you'd find that there would be a LOT of support for 1) delaying the requirement for individuals to buy insurance, and 2) requiring Congress and the Pres to live with the program.

Nevertheless, Harry Reid tabled it, without allowing a vote. (At least so far...) The media probably doesn't even want to mention this last House bill, since at least some of it would probably be pretty popular!

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 1, 2013 at 3:50 pm

CRM, I get that you understand your job to be to pass on the Republican politician's spin on their dishonest and irresponsible actions, but let's face some stone cold facts:

1) The requirement that Congress and the president and their staffs get health care through exchanges without "subsidy" is the sleaziest bit of phoniness we've seen in quite a while. Those federal employees have had employer payment of a significant portion of their health care insurance costs as a part of their compensation for decades, just like the majority of American employees. Demanding that they get care through ACA exchanges **without that contribution** is, simply stated, a very large pay cut that **no one else** is required to experience. The law which required federal employees to get their coverage through ACA but preserved their existing employer contribution to those costs was not a "subsidy" or an "exemption" and no amount of spinning can change that. Facts are facts: the Republican stance on this is a slimy, phony bit of political grandstanding.

2) ACA is the law. Even though we've had elections since it was passed, the Republicans don't have the votes in Congress to repeal it. If their hostage-taking tactic works, what is to prevent a future House, Senate or President from demanding that the majority in other branches of government do as demanded or they'll shut down the country? The Republican tactics on this are precisely the same as those used by terrorists: we can't win the hearts and minds of the people, and we can't succeed within the law, so do what we'll say or we'll unleash entirely unnecessary loss and suffering on everyone.

There's no way to spin that. The Republicans in Congress are acting like spoiled rich kids who tell the other kids that if they don't let them win they're going to take the ball and go home. There's not enough lipstick in the world to make that pig look good.

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