Republicans have the art of hostage politics down to a science. They had a lot of practice last year when they held the unemployed hostage by refusing to extend benefits unless the President backed away from allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. They won that round. And now again, by threatening to blow up the economy by refusing to raise the debt limit, Republicans have pretty much gotten all that they wanted in this round of Mad Politics.
Sam Stein summarizes the deal.
A White House fact sheet distributed to reporters shortly after the president spoke laid down the specific elements of Sunday night’s deal to raise the debt ceiling:
- The president will be authorized to increase the debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion, eliminating the need for another increase until 2013.
- The first tranche of cuts will come in at nearly $1 trillion. That includes savings of $350 billion from the Base Defense Budget, which will be trimmed based off a review of overall U.S. national security policy.
- A bipartisan committee with enhanced procedural authority will be responsible for pinpointing $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction from both entitlements and tax reform, as well as other spending programs.
- The committee will have to report out legislation by November 23, 2011.
- Congress will be required to vote on Committee recommendations by December 23, 2011.
- The trigger mechanism — should the committee’s recommendations not be acted upon — will be mandatory spending cuts. Those cuts, which will begin in January 2013, will be split 50/50 between domestic and defense spending. Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries and “low-income programs” would be exempted from those cuts.
The fact sheet goes on to note that there is another enforcement mechanism that the president possesses.
“The Bush tax cuts expire as of 1/1/2013, the same date that the spending sequester [the trigger mechanism] would go into effect,” the fact sheet reads. “These two events together will force balanced deficit reduction. Absent a balanced deal, it would enable the President to use his veto pen to ensure nearly $1 trillion in additional deficit reduction by not extending the high-income tax cuts.”
The deal hasn’t passed through Congress but at this point it appears that the votes are there…maybe. It should sail through the Senate but there are still questions as to whether the House’s Tea Party Caucus will continue their game of madness and refuse to join Boehner in supporting the deal. And you can add to their discontent, the anger and frustration emanating from the Progressive wing of the House who will be asked to vote for a bill which contains zero gains on the revenue side. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver referred to the deal as “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich.” And Rep. Raúl Grijalva didn’t hold back in expressing his disappointment at the final outcome of months of negotiations.
“This deal trades people’s livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it. The lesson today is that Republicans can hold their breath long enough to get what they want.”
As for President Obama, it’s never an easy task to negotiate with people who are willing to give it all up for the sake of victory. Andrew Sullivan:
All in all, Obama played this terribly, in my opinion. Leading from behind can be a strategy when all the actors are responsible. When one isn’t – and has no problem destroying the economy in order to save it – you have to get out in front. Obama didn’t have the courage to do that in January. He has paid the price.
And just when you thought politics could not get uglier, Republicans have shown us all it can. One can only hope that David Axelrod is reading it right.
“In the short term, everyone suffers politically. In the long term, I think the Republicans have done terrible damage to their brand. Because now they’re thoroughly defined by their most strident voices.”
The question is whether voters will care or even remember fifteen months down the road how badly Republicans damaged their brand when the economy is still languishing in the pits. The focus in this last year and a half of Obama’s term should have been on job creation yet somehow he allowed Republicans to make the debt the showstopper. With this deal, the President has limited his options in what can be done to stimulate the economy. You can now eliminate new spending of any kind thereby making economic recovery in the near future less likely.
If unemployment is hovering around 10% come election day next year, does anyone seriously think that the blame will go to Republicans and their teabagging cohorts who held the economy hostage these many months and forced upon this administration a budget deal which contained no new revenue stream? I doubt it.
Bill Maher had it just about right when he said that the real problem here is that the U.S. is ruled by two parties of which one has no brains and the other has no balls.