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.
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In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal sets out to relieve conservatives of the temptation to back a third-party candidate over Donald Trump. "The thought is more tempting this year than most, but it’s still hard to see how this would accomplish more than electing Hillary Clinton and muddling the message from a Trump defeat. ... The usual presidential result is that the party that splinters hands the election to the other, more united party." But in the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol is having none of it: "Serious people, including serious conservatives, cannot acquiesce in Donald Trump as their candidate. ... Donald Trump should not be president of the United States. The Wall Street Journal cannot bring itself to say that. We can say it, we do say it, and we are proud to act accordingly."
- Nate Cohn, New York Times: "There have been 10-point shifts over the general election season before, even if it’s uncommon. But there isn’t much of a precedent for huge swings in races with candidates as well known as Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton. A majority of Americans may not like her, but they say they’re scared of him."
- Roger Simon, PJ Media: "He is particularly fortunate that his opposition, Hillary Clinton, besides still being under threat of indictment and still not having defeated Bernie Sanders (go figure), is a truly uninspiring, almost soporific, figure. ... She's not a star. Trump is. All attention will be on him in the general election. The primaries have shown us what an advantage that is. What that means for American politics may not all be good, but it's true."
- The editors, The Washington Examiner: "At the very least, Trump owes it to the country he boasts he will 'make great again' to try to demonstrate some seriousness about the office he seeks. He owes this even to those who will never consider voting for him. He can start by swearing off grand displays of aggressive and apparently deliberate ignorance. This is not too much to ask."
Humana announced it plans to "exit certain statewide individual markets and products 'both on and off [Obamacare] exchange,' the insurer said in its financial results released Monday." The company also said price hikes may be forthcoming, "commensurate with anticipated levels of risk by state." Its individual-market enrollment was down 21% in the first quarter from a year ago.