John Boehner: You Have the Keys to the Car. When will you drive it?

Maybe John Boehner can’t be counted upon to do the sane thing after all.   Especially as some other Republican voices are saying the default could be managed, paying off the most important things while delaying others.   They act like this is a very simple matter that can be controlled once let loose.

John Boehner - Caricature

John Boehner – Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

In my previous post I praised Boehner for telling Republican colleagues that he would not allow a default of federal debt Oct 17, i. e. he would not hold that possibility as a bargaining chip.  He would not risk bouncing the world’s economy around like a basketball.

Apparently he has changed his mind. Since my post he has indicated there must be negotiations for such a bill to pass.   He now says a “clean” bill (one with no strings attached like defunding Obamacare)  to raise the debt ceiling would not have the votes to pass in the House.   However, many observers disagree with that assessment.   Around 20 Republican Representatives have said they would sign such a bill to prevent default and they, along with all 200 or so Democrats, would reach a majority of 218.

When I last wrote it seemed Boehner would use the government shutdown as his bargaining chip, while sparing the world’s nerves about the debt, but It seems he has changed his mind.   He seems to think he needs all of his chips to get some sort of face saving deal for the Republicans.   They were stuck in a corner by Senator Tom Cruz and 30 or 40 members of the House who insisted on linking both a Continuing Resolution to extend the budget and the raising of the debt ceiling to defunding and/or delaying Obamacare.

Even though many Republicans, including the 20 or so Representatives indicated above, are angry with Cruz and frustrated by his dead-end strategy, they are trying to get some sort of concessions so save face, essentially broadening their stand beyond Obamacare to their key identity issue of reducing government spending and size.

In the process they are making many empty accusations about the Democrats’ unwillingness to negotiate despite the fact that Republicans have refused for months to negotiate on these issues through what once was a normal process of appointing conferees from both houses to work out a deal between their two separate budgets.

Boehner now keeps talking about their willingness to have a conversation, but the President won’t, as if there is time now to have much of a conversation about anything of substance.   And the House has come up with several pieces of the Budget they are willing to pass individually, heart string pullers, like cancer trials for children, a disgusting attempt to make the Democrats seems heartless, as if there are not many others suffering due to this shut down, but not quite as high profile.

Underlying this struggle are memories of the last big battle over raising the debt ceiling months ago which led to the sequester which has been a victory for the anti-spending Republicans but now seems modest after Cruz and company have aimed for so much more.

I still believe that Boehner will not allow a default of federal debt and he does have the power to call a vote in the House on a clean resolution to raise the debt ceiling.  Just as he does on a  vote on a clean continuing resolution to extend the budget and “re-open” government, if he was willing to bring that to the floor,   He has the keys to the car.  The question is if and when he will drive it.

To me, that makes him the most powerful man in the world for now and maybe he likes the adrenalin rush.

Here’s what I think will happen.   One way or another bills will be passed to both extend the budget and raise the debt ceiling, but for short periods, even a few weeks perhaps, that will leave us mired in this struggle.

The can will continually be kicked down the road.  Quite likely at least to the 2014 mid-term elections.


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