I’ve been having this feeling all weekend that the entire country is holding its breath as we mark time until Washington DC blows sky high. Is anyone else feeling that way or is it just me? I’ve been somewhat out of the loop the past couple of days. I have some kind of sinus thingy and I ended up spending a lot of time updating my computer drivers and other software. But I’ve been surfing around this evening, and everything is looking very weird and wacky in the nation’s capital.
In the first place, why are Republicans all over the place threatening a government shutdown? And why aren’t Democrats countering the Republican lies? Failing to raise the debt limit won’t trigger a government shutdown. If the U.S. defaults on its debts it will trigger a national economic disaster–and perhaps a global meltdown. A shutdown would happen if Congress refused to appropriate funds to keep the government running. Defaulting on the debt would mean another lowering of our credit rating and higher interest on the debt in the future.
I can’t figure out if the Democrats are just giving the Republicans rope to hang themselves or if there is something else going on.
This morning on Dancin’ Dave’s Disco Dance Party, Mitch “Pruneface” McConnell wouldn’t respond to questions about the threatened “government shutdown.”
Pressed repeatedly on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” McConnell instead placed responsibility on President Obama for leading the country and avoiding a shutdown.
“I know what your question is,” McConnell said. “What I’m telling you is I haven’t given up on the president stepping up to the plate and tackling the single biggest issue confronting the country.”
Neither Dancin’ Dave nor McConnell addressed the most important issue–raising the debt ceiling. McConnell’s focus is squarely on cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but he wants the President to spell out the cuts. As Josh Marshall writes:
In other words, big cuts to key social insurance programs are not only the price of avoiding what would likely be a catastrophic government shutdown (a real one, not like what we had back in the 90s). But Democrats must also shield Republicans from the political consequences of cutting these programs by cutting them on the Republicans behalf.
McConnell apparently also claimed that “He Doesn’t Want Debt Ceiling Negotiations to Turn Into a Hostage Situation.”
In one of three Sunday talk show appearances, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wasn’t sure whether he’s prepared to “shoot the hostage” by letting the country default on its loans in the next round of the fiscal fight. While some Republicans are threatening to block a debt ceiling increase unless Democrats agree to major spending cuts, McConnell sidestepped the issue on ABC’s This Week. “It’s not even necessary to get to that point,” he said. “Why aren’t we trying to solve the problem? Why aren’t we trying to do something about reducing spending? … Waiting until the last minute is no way to run the government.” He added that he would not accept any new tax revenues in the next deal. “The tax issue is finished. Over. Completed. That’s behind us.”
According to The Hill, some “appropriators” in Congress have been “working quietly to avoid government shutdown.”
House and Senate appropriators have been quietly working behind the scenes for months to craft 12 compromise annual spending bills to avoid a shutdown that is slated to occur when the current six-month stopgap spending bill expires.
That sounds ominous. Are these unnamed Congresscritters working out the details of “entitlement” cuts so they can whip them out at the last minute when everyone is desperate for an agreement?
“We’ve got most of it worked out,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), the chairman on Interior and Environment appropriations subcommittee.
A Senate Democratic aide concurred that work is far along and will pick up again when the Senate returns Jan 22. Appropriators had been striving to attach an omnibus to the year-end “fiscal cliff” deal and new Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is ready to continue the effort.
The negotiations mean that disputes over individual programs and policy riders — such as those on abortion and defunding Obama’s health reform — that have exacerbated government shutdown crises like that in April 2011 are being minimized.
Nancy Pelosi did talk about the debt ceiling, and she recommended that Obama just take the bull by the horns and raise it himself.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged the president on Sunday to drop his resistance to the idea and simply bypass the upcoming debate over raising the debt ceiling by deeming the entire cap unconstitutional.
Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Pelosi offered her strongest endorsement to-date of the 14th Amendment option, which holds that Congress doesn’t have the power to use the debt ceiling as a hostage-taking device because the validity of the debt “shall not be questioned.”
Nancy Pelosi: Well, you ask the Republicans, because we always passed the debt ceiling. When President Bush was president, as he was incurring these massive debts, and the Republicans weren’t saying ‘boo’ at the time. There should be, this is a conversation where there should be no doubt. In fact, if I were president, I’d use the 14th Amendment, which says that the debt of the United States will always be paid.
Bob Schieffer: You would just go ahead and do it, you wouldn’t wait for the Congress?
Nancy Pelosi: I would just go do it. But the Congress has incurred much of this debt. And so what are you saying, we incurred it but we’re not going to pay it? If you want to say, ‘We are not going to do it so much in the future,’ well that’s another thing. But you can’t say, ‘I’m not paying my past debts.’
Go Nancy, Go!!
Now check this out from the Wall Street Journal: The Education of John Boehner.
What stunned House Speaker John Boehner more than anything else during his prolonged closed-door budget negotiations with Barack Obama was this revelation: “At one point several weeks ago,” Mr. Boehner says, “the president said to me, ‘We don’t have a spending problem.’” [....]
The president’s insistence that Washington doesn’t have a spending problem, Mr. Boehner says, is predicated on the belief that massive federal deficits stem from what Mr. Obama called “a health-care problem.” Mr. Boehner says that after he recovered from his astonishment—”They blame all of the fiscal woes on our health-care system”—he replied: “Clearly we have a health-care problem, which is about to get worse with ObamaCare. But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem.” He repeated this message so often, he says, that toward the end of the negotiations, the president became irritated and said: “I’m getting tired of hearing you say that.”
Boehner, like McConnell announced there will be no more tax increases, period–only tax reform, and by that he means lower tax rates.
The speaker is adamant on two points: First, Republicans won’t be agreeing to any more tax increases during the next two years. “The tax issue is resolved,” he says, and it will be discussed only in the context of a broader debate about tax reform—specifically, lower rates. He dismisses the president’s declaration that any future budget cuts will have to be “balanced” with more tax hikes.
Second, Mr. Boehner says he won’t engage in any more closed-door budget negotiations with the White House, which are “futile.” He adds: “Sure, I will meet with the president if he wants to,” but House Republicans will from now on proceed with establishing a budget for the year following what is known as “regular order,” and they will insist that Harry Reid and Senate Democrats pass a budget—something they haven’t done in nearly four years—before proceeding.
The real showdown will be on the debt ceiling and the spending sequester in March….The debt bill is “one point of leverage,” Mr. Boehner says, but he also hedges, noting that it is “not the ultimate leverage.” He says that Republicans won’t back down from the so-called Boehner rule: that every dollar of raising the debt ceiling will require one dollar of spending cuts over the next 10 years. Rather than forcing a deal, the insistence may result in a series of monthly debt-ceiling increases.
The Republicans’ stronger card, Mr. Boehner believes, will be the automatic spending sequester trigger that trims all discretionary programs—defense and domestic.
It’s a long interview and it provides some insight into Boehner’s thinking, such as it is.
Roll Call has a piece called: Boehner Coup Attempt Larger Than First Thought
A concerted effort to unseat Speaker John A. Boehner was under way the day of his re-election to the position, but participants called it off 30 minutes before the House floor vote, CQ Roll Call has learned.
A group of disaffected conservatives had agreed to vote against the Ohio lawmaker if they could get at least 25 members to join the effort. But one member, whose identity could not be verified, rescinded his or her participation the morning of the vote, leaving the group one person short of its self-imposed 25-member threshold. Only 17 votes against Boehner were required to force a second ballot, but the group wanted to have insurance.
Even with 24 members, the group would easily have been able to force a second ballot round, but the effort was aborted in frenetic discussions on the House floor.
“Aborted?” I thought Republicans were against that.
And did you hear that Thomas Gibson was arrested for DUI today?
The 50-year-old actor, known for his roles on “Criminal Minds” and “Dharma & Greg,” was driving in downtown L.A. at around 1:00 a.m. on Jan. 6 when he attempted to continue through a part of town that had been sectioned off for a half marathon.
Sources tell The Huffington Post that the race was not over when Gibson drove his Audi SUV right onto the course, interrupting several runners. The race started at 9 p.m., but the road was still blocked off and authorities were making sure no vehicles were let through.
According to TMZ, Gibson was stopped by police and told to go a different way, but he proceeded anyway.
I hope that won’t cause any problems for my favorite TV show, Criminal Minds.
So what are you all hearing? Are we headed for the storm of the century?
The two choices: amend the bill with spending cuts – likely killing it for the 112th Congress – or vote to adopt the Senate measure and send it to President Obama for his signature.
During an evening vote series, members are being whipped on an amendment option: attaching a $328 billion spending cut measure to the Senate deal. That measure passed the House twice in 2012 on party-line votes. It reduced the deficit by $243 billion, left cuts to Medicare in place, turned off $72 billion of $109 billion in defense and non-defense spending set for 2013. The Senate throughout 2012 ignored this House measure.
When the standalone bill came up for a vote in May, it passed by 218 to 199 votes with 16 GOP “no” votes. In December, it passed 215 to 209 with 21 GOP “no” votes. Since that last vote, Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a “yes” vote, has resigned from the House to become a senator.
Sources confirmed that despite conservative grumbling about corporate tax “giveaways” in the Senate bill, tax breaks for corporations are not considered for amendment. The Senate deal contains dozens of “tax extenders” including for clean energy.
If there is more than a 217-vote majority within the Republican conference for the amended bill, it will be brought to the floor. If a majority cannot be found, the Senate deal will get an up-or-down vote, members said.
While House Republicans broadly oppose the legislation the Senate passed overwhelmingly early Tuesday morning, many of them emerged from their second closed-door meeting of the day believing that, ultimately, the House would approve the measure without amendments.
Meanwhile, stock markets around the world are on USA Economy Death Watch. Believe me, markets will not react will to what’s going on right now–starting in about an hour–when the Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo markets open up. Ask me why all of my money is sitting in FDIC insured bank accounts right now and not enriching my brokerage firm. Yes, folks, it’s the House Republican Dysfunction Show!
Let me provide some background music while I explain what’s going on with the Republicans in the House.
So, what are the folks that are willing to tank-the- country over fear of losing their seats to even more crazy people in 2 years doing now? Well, combine that with political ambitions of Ryan, Cantor, and other “up and comers” that would cook their grandmother for the main dish at a fundraiser for their 2016 presidential bids and it’s drama worthy of any Three Stooges short.
Conservative opposition to the agreement stems from a host of issues, including the fact that the deal does not include any spending cuts, would significantly add to the nation’s deficit and raises taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year.
And Cantor’s not alone in opposing the deal: the agreement is universally disliked within Republican circles, and even Democrats in the House and Senate have voiced complaints about the deal.
The lack of spending cuts in the Senate bill was a universal concern amongst members in today’s meeting,” said Boehner spokesperson Brendan Buck. “Conversations with members will continue throughout the afternoon on the path forward.”
Rep. Steve LaTourette, a Boehner ally, said there were “two schools of thought” expressed in the meeting: To accept the deal and “live to fight another day,” or amend the measure and send it back to the Senate.
CNN and Twitter appear to be the sole sources of news on this at the moment. The news readers are still recovering from the champagne brunches and aren’t working. Mostly, CNN has turned into a breif show of representatives that want to be counted in the “I’d rather tank the country than piss off my insane base” number. Boehner is clearly in a corner. He appears to be the appetizer on the let’s cook granny for our fundraiser event.
Under our non-parliamentary system, the party leadership has less leverage to pressure rank-and-file members of the caucus. The result is episodes like last month’s “Plan B” fiasco, where Speaker Boehner tried and failed to pass an official Republican solution to the fiscal cliff. Democrats were unified against the bill, which they viewed as too conservative. Yet many Republicans viewed it as not conservative enough, and Boehner didn’t have any way to force them to support it.
In short, John Boehner has committed himself to a set of principles for operating the House that makes the body fundamentally dysfunctional. A functional legislative body either needs a mechanism for the majority leader to get members of his caucus to toe the party line, or he needs the ability to “reach across the aisle” to get the votes he needs from the minority. John Boehner lacks the former, and by ruling out the latter he’s effectively painted himself into a corner where he might not be able to get any piece of “fiscal cliff” legislation passed by the full House of Representatives.
It does look like the amended bill will not pass. Most bets are that Boehner will hold an up or down on the Senate bill and the Dems will ensure its passage. Hey house Republicans! Feet meet your ak-47s!!!! We’ll know more within the our after all the hand wringing and protesting too much occurs.
As your friendly resident economist, I’d just like to say that it’s apparent that there are a bunch of people in charge of our policy that did not learn the lesson of the great depression or the great recession. They’ve also not learned the lessons of the research surrounding the Reagan years. Every one needs to know the variables that can use to plan their finances. Businesses and families should not be held hostage to political antics and economic policy based on wishful thinking and extremists beliefs. This keeps repeating itself because crazy people have taken over the Republican Party. It needs to stop.
The choice is to let an up or down vote on the Senate Bill happen within the next hour or so. The Democratic Leadership believes they have enough Democratic votes to get it passed. So, the thought is that the Senate bill will pass. The technical process to get the bill to the floor has started (per CNN). The vote will be held some time around 9:00 pm.
I’m trying to get through a serious patch of the dread lazies. All the rain and cold and glum has me in nap mode. But, I thought I’d follow up a bit to BB’s morning post that had some more stupid congressional maneuvers on things that shouldn’t be happening with our fiscal situation. I’m really getting tired of having Social Security tied in with deficit discussions for one since they are completely unrelated. Second, it’s amazing to me that the Speaker of the House can be this close to letting chaos hit the markets and the economy over what is undoubtedly his concerns about holding on to the speakership. So, here’s some this and that on the few things that are bad about the fiscal bunny slope and hooplah surrounding the rest.
The worst thing is the ending to extended unemployment benefits and the uncertainty surrounding the tax cuts for people that really need them. My guess is that some of this will be renewed but only after the Republicans play the game of letting the rates go up so they can say the brought them down. It’s inane, I know, but I’ve come to expect that of the party of jerks that have overtaken the Republicans. Here’s an article from Salon by Steve Kornacki on the Tea Party Mindset and the destruction of our congressional functionality called the Triumph of the Tea Party Mind Set.
The problem, of course, is that the Tea Party’s power resides in Republican primaries, where conservative purists wreaked considerable havoc in the past two election cycles. This included, famously, McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, where the minority leader’s protégé was crushed in a 2010 GOP Senate primary by Rand Paul. Now McConnell has to worry about suffering a similar fate in two years, especially if his handling of the current fiscal impasse evokes cries of treason from the base. How could this square with claims of fading clout for the Tea Party?
Actually, there’s a way. It just depends on how you understand the Tea Party.
Defined as a literal movement, with an active membership pressing a specific set of demands, the Tea Party absolutely is in decline. Tea Party events have become less crowded, less visible and less relevant to the national political conversation. As the Times story notes, the movement’s die-hards are embracing increasingly niche pet issues. The term “Tea Party” has come to feel very 2010.
But if you think of the Tea Party less as a movement and more as a mindset, it’s as strong and relevant as ever. As I wrote back in ’10, the Tea Party essentially gave a name to a phenomenon we’ve seen before in American politics – fierce, over-the-top resentment of and resistance to Democratic presidents by the right. It happened when Bill Clinton was president, it happened when Lyndon Johnson was president, it happened when John F. Kennedy was president. When a Democrat claims the White House, conservatives invariably convince themselves that he is a dangerous radical intent on destroying the country they know and love and mobilize to thwart him.
The twist in the Obama-era is that some of the conservative backlash has been directed inward. This is because the right needed a way to explain how a far-left anti-American ideologue like Obama could have won 53 percent of the popular vote and 365 electoral votes in 2008. What they settled on was an indictment of George W. Bush’s big government conservatism; the idea, basically, was that Bush had given their movement a bad name with his big spending and massive deficits, angering the masses and rendering them vulnerable to Obama’s deceptive charms. And the problem hadn’t just been Bush – it had been every Republican in office who’d abided his expansion of government, his deals with Democrats, his Wall Street bailout and all the rest.
Thus did the Tea Party movement represent a two-front war – one a conventional one against the Democratic president, and the other a new one against any “impure” Republicans. Besides a far-right ideology, the trait shared by most of the Tea Party candidates who have won high-profile primaries these past few years has been distance from what is perceived as the GOP establishment. Whether they identify with the Tea Party or not, conservative leaders, activists and voters have placed a real premium on ideological rigidity and outsider status; there’s no bigger sin than going to Washington and giving ground, even just an inch, to the Democrats.
These folks appear to be ready to bring down the economy and the country if they don’t get their way and frankly, I think it’s scary. The danger in doing nothing about the slope doesn’t come immediately. It will come from the compounding impact of doing nothing over time which is what characterizes this congress. As an example, the IRS may not immediately change the withholding tables so the tax changes may not be felt immediately but it eventually will mean $100-200 a month to families already living on the edge. Boehner is calling the House back into Session on Sunday. I’m really not sure if he can actually knock some sense in to these folks or what he’s up to but I guess we’ll see. Here’s information on that from NBC.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, notified lawmakers that the House would come to order at 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday in hopes of averting the end-of-year combination of tax hikes and spending cuts that constitute the fiscal cliff.
An anonymous source had this to say:
The lawmaker on Thursday’s call told NBC News that any Senate plan Boehner puts on the House floor (of which there is no guarantee) would only receive as few as 40 Republican votes, making Democratic help necessary.
“If the Senate will not approve these bills and send them to the president to be signed into law in their current form, they must be amended and returned to the House,” Boehner told Republicans Thursday, according to a source on the call. “Once this has occurred, the House will then consider whether to accept the bills as amended, or to send them back to the Senate with additional amendments. The House will take this action on whatever the Senate can pass — but the Senate must act.”
Democrats are using some pretty harsh metaphors to describe Republican intransigence. Steny Hoyer compared their behavior to a hostage taker threatening to shoot a child.
Less than two weeks after one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings, the No.2 Democrat in the U.S. House, Steny Hoyer, compared Republican tactics for dealing with the nation’s debt limit to someone threatening to shoot a child hostage. “It’s somewhat like taking your child hostage and saying to somebody else, ‘I’m going to shoot my child if you don’t do what I want done.’ You don’t want to shoot your child. There’s no Republican leader that wants to default on our debt, that I’ve talked to,” Hoyer said at a Capitol Hill press conference.
Hoyer’s comments came in response to a question about the Treasury Department’s notice that the nation was approaching its debt limit. He criticized Republicans for previous resistance to raising the debt ceiling and used the gun analogy to argue that the issue should not be part of the negotiations involving the fiscal cliff.
Meanwhile, Reid called Boehner’s speakership a “dictatorship” on the floor of the senate. His statement sent the markets down. The Republicans have spent the last year playing the confidence fairy card so it’s really odd to find them trying to assassinate said confidence fairy right now.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this morning that it “looks like” Congress will fail to come to a deal to avert the year-end fiscal cliff, blaming the failure on House Speaker John Boehner’s “dictatorship” running the lower chamber.
“It looks like that’s where we’re headed,” Reid said. ”I don’t know, time-wise, how it can happen now.”
It’s not exactly a surprise — leaders left Washington last week without any imminent signs of a deal in the making. But it’s a grim warning just days before tax hikes and automatic spending cuts begin to take effect.
Markets tanked immediately in the aftermath of Reid’s floor speech, with the Dow off more than 110 shortly after noon.
Reid opened the Senate session by launching into a lengthy criticism of the House and Boehner, saying he “seems to care more about his Speakership” than making a deal on the cliff.
The House is being run “by a dictatorship of the Speaker,” Reid said. He accused Boehner of waiting until the election of the Speaker on Jan. 3 to get involved with negotiations. And he urged the lower chamber to pass the Middle Class Tax Cut Act, which the Senate narrowly passed in July. The bill made permanent all of the Bush-era tax cuts on incomes of less than $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals.
Reid also slammed the House for not being in session on Thursday. He said that instead of being in Washington, Republicans are “out watching movies.”
Yglesias–writing at Salon–chided the media for falling for Boehner’s “process games”. Boehner keeps asking for more details and a plan when there are at least two different offers with details out there.
This is a transparent and silly negotiating ploy. Right now, Democrats have two different offers on the table. One is a narrow bill that’s already passed the Senate that would fully extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone with an AGI under $250,000 while letting the Bush rates expire for wealthier households. House Republicans could pass that bill, thus reducing taxes on rich and middle class Americans alike relative to current law. With that done, congress and the White House could start discussing other aspects of the fiscal cliff if they care to. Alternatively, the president has put an offer on the table that involves a more tax increases than that but also a 1:1 ratio of tax increases relative to current policy and spending cuts relative to current law. If John Boehner is willing and able to deliver even a relatively small number of House Republican votes for that plan, then it will clearly pass the Senate.
But Boehner doesn’t want to do either of those things. So fair enough.
But the thing that Boehner does want to do—his “Plan B” bill to extend Bush era rates for everyone earning under $1 million—doesn’t even have the votes to pass the House of Representatives. Given that reality, if Boehner wants an alternative to the Senate Democrats offer or the White House offer the onus on him is to abandon the (pointless) quest for 218 Republican votes and try to come up with something that he’ll agree to and that will attract enough votes from House Democrats to pass over the objections of the right wing of his caucus. If he doesn’t want to pass the senate bill and he doesn’t want to pass the White House bill and he doesn’t want to try to bargain with House Democrats, then going “over the cliff” is inevitable.
That’s fine if that’s what he wants. Personally, I think there’s a lot to be said in favor of negotiating from the 2013 baseline rather than the 2012 baseline. But the holdup is Boehner and Boehner’s caucus. Anything that both the White House and John Boehner agree to can pass the senate. Everyone knows that.
Anyway, if you’re not jaded about our political process, parties, and elected officials by now, I doubt that you’ll ever be be. Is it to much to ask Republicans to put away their purity pledges, quit feigning ignorance and denying economic reality and get on with being a minority party in a governance crisis they created? I don’t recall it being this bad since maybe the slavery debates back in the day. Odd to see how the parties of switched sides however. It’s hard to see how we’re going to rid ourselves of the teabot crazies however, given the gerrymandering. This brings me to one more suggested read and it’s a wonky one by Nate Silver. Silver inkles a hypothesis and backs it up with tons of graphs and numbers at his FiveThirtyEight Blog in a post called: As Swing Districts Dwindle, Can a Divided House Stand?
In 1992, there were 103 members of the House of Representatives elected from what might be called swing districts: those in which the margin in the presidential race was within five percentage points of the national result. But based on an analysis of this year’s presidential returns, I estimate that there are only 35 such Congressional districts remaining, barely a third of the total 20 years ago.
Instead, the number of landslide districts — those in which the presidential vote margin deviated by at least 20 percentage points from the national result — has roughly doubled. In 1992, there were 123 such districts (65 of them strongly Democratic and 58 strongly Republican). Today, there are 242 of them (of these, 117 favor Democrats and 125 Republicans).
So why is compromise so hard in the House? Some commentators, especially liberals, attribute it to what they say is the irrationality of Republican members of Congress.
But the answer could be this instead: individual members of Congress are responding fairly rationally to their incentives. Most members of the House now come from hyperpartisan districts where they face essentially no threat of losing their seat to the other party. Instead, primary challenges, especially for Republicans, may be the more serious risk.
His analysis is based on some really great numbers so be sure to check it out. Robert Reich put this on his face book status today about the nature of the real fiscal cliff.
Here’s what really worries me. We’re heading off the cliff, but I don’t mean the fiscal one. I’m talking about the family one. According to the Center for Responsible Lending’s newest report, the typical household has just $100 left each month after paying for basic expenses and debt payments. After controlling for inflation, the typical household has less annual income now than it did at the beginning of the decade. And starting next week, with the beginning of 2013 — assuming there’s no deal on the fiscal cliff, because Republicans are unwilling to raise taxes on the richest in the land — payroll taxes and income taxes increase on the typical family. In other words, the typical American family is about to go off its own financial cliff, and no one seems to be paying any attention.
I couldn’t agree more.