|And then there's Sequestration, and then|
there's the Continuing Resolution, and then...
But the way it's being described, the Republican House leadership will bring a debt ceiling increase up for a vote, with most of their members voting no or "present" and allowing it to pass with overwhelming Democratic support, once again violating the increasingly pointless Hastert Rule. But it's also being reported that this will be only a 3 month extension and it will come with legislation requiring Congress to pass a budget in that 90 day period on pain of the withholding of Congressional salary.
So far, I haven't heard a response to these positions from the White House, which is probably reasonable in that there has been no formal proposal or specific legislation, so an official response would be premature. But a lot of the information available has me wondering if we have truly averted a debt ceiling crisis yet. First of all, would Obama sign a 3 month extension, even if it was clean? That doesn't really solve the problem of legislation by hostage taking - it's like letting the hostage free, but keeping him under house arrest with a GPS tracker around his ankle. Obama could rightfully say that there's no kicking THIS can down the road, but he risks being viewed as the one who caused the crisis if it then leads to economic damage.
More problematic than that is the threat of attaching the Budget condition to the debt ceiling increase. The President has been very clear that he will not allow any conditions to be imposed in exchange for increasing the debt limit, and that would violate the spirit, even if not the letter of that insistence. There are a lot of people on the political left congratulating the President, exulting in their perceived proof that "Hardball Works". An administration so often accused of negotiating with itself and preemptively capitulating, they say, has won its most important political victory by drawing a line in the sand. It will not sit well if there is, ultimately, any condition attached to the "clean" debt ceiling increase they have been demanding.
The demand itself, for that matter, is more Republican political buffoonery. It's true that Congress has not passed a budget in years, but that's just a matter of legislators not wanting to see their names attached to either unpopular spending or unpopular cuts. And this years budget is determined already, under the terms of the Budget Control Act passed in 2011, so there's really no need for one, other than those quaint notions of transparency and accountability. But it's the trigger they would impose that is the real head scratcher here. If either House of Congress doesn't pass a budget in 90 days, we are told, the legislation would require the withholding of their salary. Beyond the obviously questionable strategy of taking themselves hostage, it has been pointed out that under the 27th Amendment this is very likely not constitutional. This from the very people who just last week spent a day reading the Constitution aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives. I guess none of them was actually listening.
Ultimately, of course, it seems very likely that the President will get a debt limit bill he is willing to sign. It just doesn't seem that the Republican leadership is willing to own the economic consequences of default. But, based on what we know so far, it certainly seems as if pronouncements that the crisis has passed might be more than a little premature.