These Conservatives Are Done Fighting Over the Debt Ceiling

The last time around, they put up a giant fight over government funding. Now some Republicans have mellowed out — and would settle for a clean bill.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) speaks to reporters after a news conference May 16, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
Feb. 6, 2014, 11:03 a.m.

The world looked dif­fer­ent four months ago for con­ser­vat­ives. They were fired up. The gov­ern­ment was shut down over de­mands to de­fund, then delay, Obama­care, and the debt-ceil­ing in­crease vote was around the corner. “We’re really, very en­er­gized today. We’re very strong,” Rep. Michele Bach­mann told Fox’s Sean Han­nity then. “This is about the hap­pi­est I’ve seen mem­bers in a long time be­cause we’ve seen we’re start­ing to win this dia­logue on a na­tion­al level.”

But now with an­oth­er ma­jor dead­line ahead — the debt ceil­ing — Bach­mann and oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans sound markedly dif­fer­ent. “What I’ve heard from oth­er mem­bers,” Bach­mann says, “is that this is not go­ing to be the hill that they’re go­ing to die on.”

“You have to know when to hold them and you have to know when to fold them,” ad­ded Bach­mann, who isn’t ad­voc­at­ing for a clean debt-ceil­ing bill. “You just need to be wise to know when to have polit­ic­al fights. It isn’t that our al­le­gi­ance to prin­ciples have changed; it hasn’t at all. You just need to know when your op­por­tun­it­ies are and when to ex­er­cise your lever­age.”

With House Speak­er John Boehner re­peatedly vow­ing that the coun­try will not de­fault on its debt, and lead­er­ship look­ing for sweeten­ers to a debt-ceil­ing in­crease, some con­ser­vat­ives are ac­tu­ally say­ing a clean bill should come to the floor now. That’s how they ex­pect this whole epis­ode to play out any­way, they reas­on. They’ll vote against it, but save the drama.

“What’s the defin­i­tion of in­san­ity? Do­ing the same thing over and ex­pect­ing dif­fer­ent res­ults. That ap­plies in this case,” says Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Thomas Massie of Ken­tucky. “You can ex­pect the same res­ults if you have the same par­ti­cipants.”

It’s an “ob­vi­ous” real­iz­a­tion, he adds.

Rep. Raul Lab­rador of Idaho has said the House should just take up a clean debt-ceil­ing bill. “Give the Demo­crats their vote. We don’t have to vote for it.” Like­wise, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan ac­know­ledged where things are headed: “I wish they would do something sub­stant­ive, but they’re not go­ing to, so let’s just avoid the theat­er and get on with it.”

In­deed, “a sense of real­ism among the con­fer­ence” has taken hold, Bach­mann says. Let the Demo­crats take a tough vote first or at­tach something that would do some good, she reas­ons.

But what about the Hastert Rule, which in­form­ally for­bids any bill be­ing put on the floor without the sup­port of the ma­jor­ity of the ma­jor­ity? House Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship has already broken it six times from 2011 to 2013, and it looks like it may again. “Moth­er Teresa is a saint now, but if the Con­gress wanted to make her a saint and at­tach that to the debt ceil­ing, we prob­ably couldn’t get 218 Re­pub­lic­an votes,” Boehner said Thursday.

While Rep. John Flem­ing of Louisi­ana doesn’t want a clean bill first, he says “there is some mer­it” to con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers say­ing a clean bill should just move for­ward now. “We’re at a point now where we’ve got about as much dis­cre­tion­ary spend­ing as we can get out of this ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he says. He es­tim­ated that as many as 40 Re­pub­lic­ans will vote against a debt-ceil­ing in­crease no mat­ter what’s at­tached to it.

Con­ser­vat­ives push back on the idea that this new sense of real­ism is an at­ti­tude change. Rather, it’s a re­sponse to changed cir­cum­stances. Ahead of the gov­ern­ment shut­down, Obama­care was about to be im­ple­men­ted. They felt this was their last shot to make a grand stand to pre­vent it from be­ing rolled out. “Com­mon sense [told] you that this pres­id­ent has got to con­sider delay­ing or at least re­view­ing, re­con­sid­er­ing or al­ter­ing” Obama­care, Flem­ing says. “We were will­ing to go to the mat for that reas­on.”

The shut­down and how it played out dis­ab­used them of that idea. But con­fid­ence in their lead­er­ship also plays a ma­jor role. Even be­fore House Re­pub­lic­ans huddled at their an­nu­al re­treat to hash out a debt-ceil­ing strategy, lead­er­ship was sig­nal­ing a de­fault wouldn’t hap­pen.

“What you’re pick­ing up from a lot of con­ser­vat­ives on the Hill, and this ex­tends bey­ond the Hill, is they re­cog­nize their lead­er­ship in Con­gress isn’t will­ing to fight,” Dan Holler of Her­it­age Ac­tion says. “Their mem­bers, their con­stitu­ents — no one wants to see a fake fight. No one wants to see them go­ing through the mo­tions.”

So while Re­pub­lic­ans search for something they can at­tach to a debt-lim­it in­crease, some con­ser­vat­ives are resign­ing them­selves to the in­ev­it­able con­clu­sion. And the only way to change a con­clu­sion that looks in­ev­it­able is to switch up the cast of char­ac­ters. There’s al­ways Novem­ber. “We need to change the Sen­ate,” Massie says.

Sarah Mimms contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
PROCEDURES NOT FOLLOWED
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
1 days ago
THE LATEST
MOB RULE?
Trump on Immigration: ‘I Don’t Know, You Tell Me’
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
‘STRATEGY AND MESSAGING’
Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
4 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

Source:
×