GOP backing away from debt ceiling fight
Last week, Republicans were mulling several options for the approaching debate over raising the debt ceiling. They were talking big about attaching amendments to the bill that would force the president to approve the Keystone pipeline, cut entitlements, or repeal the individual mandate in Obamacare.
Such big talk has now morphed into surrender.
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.
The vast majority of Democrats will vote against everything except a clean debt ceiling increase, so if Republicans try to tack extraneous policy onto a debt ceiling measure, they'll have to pass it on their own. 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. In short, Republicans have few options and even less time: The Obama administration says the debt limit must be raised by the end of February. Republicans, though, are skeptical of that date.
"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."
What happened? Practical politics happened. Labrador has hit the nail on the head. Republicans would look like hypocrites if they made a big deal about authorizing a debt limit increase on spending they've already approved.
The answer is relatively simple; don't spend so much. Alas, It is far more enjoyable to hand out goodies to the taxpayer than tell them they have to wait, or that they can't have something. I haven't seen any scores on how much spending Obama proposed last night in his SOTU speech but you can bet that there's something in there for everyone.
Despite a public that believes debt reduction to be one of the top priorities for Washington, politicians will fall all over themselves trying to pass an immigration bill that the voter doesn't think is very important at all.
Glad they got their priorities straight.