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Homepage / BUDGET

On Debt, When Will Pong End?

(Some rights reserved by tcp909)

photo of Matthew Cooper
July 29, 2011

Now what?
 
When it comes to the debt-ceiling crisis, the two chambers of Congress have been like an old-fashioned game of Pong, sending slow-motion volleys to each other that speed up until somebody fails to return a shot.
 
That’s what happened to John Boehner tonight.

House Speaker John Boehner had to use all of his political muscle to get his fellow House Republicans to consider a vote on his debt-ceiling measure, a bill that the tea party thought was a weak brew and that the Democrats in Congress, not to mention President Obama, decried as irresponsible. Even before the Democratic-controlled Senate had a chance to defeat Boehner’s bill, the next step was unfolding.

Over the weekend, there’ll be no shortage of efforts to put together a last-minute compromise that can clear both chambers and get the president’s signature, therefore staving off default on Tuesday, when the Federal Government starts acting like a slacker at the end of the month trying to decide whether to pay the rent or the car loan or the student loan.
 
The Boehner bill and the one offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid aren’t that far apart:
 
—Neither raises taxes.

 

—Both cut the budget.
 
—Each looks forward to a commission doing the hard stuff down the road.
 
Neither proposal inspires much enthusiasm but that’s probably why some mashup of the two can clear both Houses. Whether the lawmakers can get it together in time for Tuesday probably depends on their fear of default. If the Dow drops 500 points, that’s likely to concentrate the mind. If investors are more blasé then there’ll be more room for posturing.
 
Either way, we’re getting to the end of this game of Pong.
 
And unlike the 70s videogame, which still has its nostalgic admirers, no one is going to miss this contest.
 
In between video games, follow Matt Cooper on Twitter at @Mattizcoop.

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