Who, Exactly, Just Blinked in the Debt-Ceiling Showdown?

The Speaker’s offer of a six-week extension in return for talks is a concession — but so is the president’s new willingness to talk.

President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on October 8, 2013.
National Journal
Michael Hirsh
Add to Briefcase
Michael Hirsh
Oct. 10, 2013, 8:39 a.m.

If you’re won­der­ing who just blinked first in the tense back-and-forth between Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans over the gov­ern­ment shut­down and debt-ceil­ing dead­line, the an­swer is: It’s a photo fin­ish.

In fact, both Speak­er John Boehner and Pres­id­ent Obama are blink­ing — that is, giv­ing up ground — at nearly the same time. Pick­ing up on hints from Treas­ury Sec­ret­ary Jack Lew on Wed­nes­day that the pres­id­ent was open to a short-term debt-ceil­ing in­crease, Boehner and the House Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship ob­liged him. On Thursday morn­ing, they came out of a meet­ing to an­nounce they’d sup­port “clean” le­gis­la­tion of the sort Obama wanted to raise the debt lim­it — but only for the next six weeks. Then, dur­ing that peri­od, Boehner and his team said, the pres­id­ent needs to sit down and talk about con­crete spend­ing cuts and oth­er is­sues.

In his re­marks, the House speak­er clearly in­ten­ded to con­vey that he was meet­ing Obama “halfway,” and that the GOP was hold­ing out on an agree­ment to open the gov­ern­ment un­til Boehner heard something more from the pres­id­ent in talks sched­uled for this af­ter­noon. “That’s a con­ver­sa­tion we’re go­ing to have with the pres­id­ent today,” Boehner said.

So who’s mak­ing the great­er con­ces­sion? We’ll likely find out over the next day or so. But it’s ob­vi­ous there is mar­gin­al move­ment to­ward the middle, in a foot-drag­ging way, from what had been two hard-line po­s­i­tions. Boehner, tak­ing his cue from the tea-party sub-caucus in the House, had ini­tially in­sisted on pres­id­en­tial con­ces­sions re­lated to the start-up of Obama­care this month. He ap­pears to be let­ting that slide, to the con­sterna­tion of the tea party. Sud­denly all the talk is about spend­ing in gen­er­al — en­ti­tle­ments and tax re­form — not Obama­care, which Boehner and his team have come to ac­cept that the pres­id­ent can­not budge on, giv­en that it is his sig­na­ture do­mest­ic achieve­ment. In sep­ar­ate op-eds Wed­nes­day, both House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor and Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ry­an both called for debt-ceil­ing ne­go­ti­ations without men­tion­ing health care at all.

And yet Obama, even while in­sist­ing that he will re­fuse to ne­go­ti­ate any­thing but a clean con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion while the gov­ern­ment is shut down, and that he will not talk about con­ces­sions either in ex­change for rais­ing the debt ceil­ing, ap­pears to be already do­ing that, to a de­gree. He will al­most cer­tainly have to do more of it. Even with a six-week ex­ten­sion — which Obama is ex­pec­ted to sign — the GOP is still hold­ing the gov­ern­ment “host­age,” in the Demo­crats’ fa­vor­ite de­scrip­tion. Adding to the pres­sure is a pro­vi­sion that the Treas­ury De­part­ment not use “ex­traordin­ary meas­ures” to pay down the debt dur­ing the ex­ten­sion peri­od; if the pres­id­ent ac­cepts that as well, the ap­proach will look even more ex­tor­tion­ate.

Lew, in his testi­mony, gave a nifty per­form­ance in say­ing yes and no at the same time, deny­ing that the pres­id­ent would ever ne­go­ti­ate un­der threat while at the same al­low­ing that “if everything is on the table “¦ there could be a ser­i­ous con­ver­sa­tion.”

That, folks, is prob­ably what we’re about to see be­gin.

What We're Following See More »
CONTINUES WAR OF WORDS
Trump Goes After Germany In Tweet
5 minutes ago
THE DETAILS
MAYBE MORE COMING
Cohn Rules Out Easing Russian Sanctions
5 minutes ago
BREAKING
MAY 18
Trump Comms Director Resigns
12 minutes ago
BREAKING

Mike Dubke, Donald Trump's communications director, has resigned his post in the White House. Dubke offered his resignation on May 18, but offered to stay on through the completion of Trump's first foreign trip to allow for a smoother transition. Trump immediately accepted Dubke's resignation when it was offered. There have been weeks of rumblings that Trump was considering a major shakeup to his advisers, specifically citing Trump's discontent with his communications shop.

CITES CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Lieberman Withdraws from Consideration for FBI Job
4 days ago
THE LATEST
MANAFORT AND FLYNN
Russians Discussed Influencing Trump Through Aides
4 days ago
THE DETAILS

"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login