Friday, January 18, 2013

Republican hostage plans going, going...

By Frank Moraes 

More cracks in the Republican hostage plan. The other day, Glenn Kessler destroyed Amy Kremer's claim that "It is pure baloney to say we have to pay the bills for things Congress has already approved." And yesterday, Kremer's group Tea Party Express responded, claiming that they really do think that the Debt Ceiling has to be raised.

Jonathan Chait writes, "Republicans: Okay, Maybe We Can't Shoot the Hostage, But Maybe We Can Slap Him Around or Something." It reports on a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Keith Hennessey. In it, he floats an idea that is doubtless making the rounds at the Republican retreat: just raise the Debt Ceiling every three months or so.

This isn't exactly new. Grover Norquist floated the idea of doing this back in November. He said that Republicans should just raise the Debt Ceiling according the Obama's behavior, "Monthly if he's good, weekly if he's bad." I don't think there has been much coverage of just how offensive such talk is. He is suggesting that the president is a misbehaving child. But that's conservatives: authoritarian followers when they're in power; reactionary revolutionaries when they're not. Anyway...

Chait goes on to note that this is a bizarre idea. This just sets up a situation where Republicans have to vote to raise the Debt Ceiling over and over again. And that just provides fodder for a primary challenge. But the problem is deeper than this:

They just keep falsely insisting over and over that Obama refuses to accept spending cuts. If they think it makes sense to refuse the spending cuts Obama is offering because they can't accept the revenue increases he insists have to go along with it, why don't they just say that? Is the position so unpopular they can't even acknowledge it publicly? Are they just unable to conceive of a policy change that comes about as a result of compromise rather than hostage-taking? It's genuinely weird.

Greg Sargent thinks it is similarly strange. But he provides the way forward:

Republicans need to accept the inevitable: Either agree to a clean debt ceiling hike, or accept the need to compromise, agree to a deal with revenues that can pass the House with Dems, and attach a debt ceiling hike to that. The easiest way out of this hostage crisis is for Republicans to release the hostage.

What seems to be going on is that the Republicans are going through the process of understanding that the great leverage they thought they had -- "Let's destroy the economy!" -- really wasn't leverage at all. As I said yesterday, we will see what the next week brings. I think it will be the sound of the ceiling caving in.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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