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 »
TRUMP’S ATTORNEY WAS SET TO TESTIFY ON WEDNESDAY
Senate Intel Postpones Testimony by Cohen
23 hours ago
THE LATEST
AMENDMENT WOULD HAVE PREVENTED CONSIDERATION
Senate Rejects Effort to Nix SALT Tax Changes
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Senate Democrats on Thursday failed in their first attempt to save the state and local tax deduction, which helps many residents of California and other high-cost states reduce their federal income tax bills. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-47 to reject an amendment that would have prevented the Senate from considering any bill that repeals or limits the deduction as part of a planned tax overhaul."

Source:
INTERVIEWED BY COMMITTEE STAFF
Lewandowski Meets with Senate Intelligence Committee
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski appeared on Capitol Hill for a closed-door interview with the Senate intelligence committee Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the matter. Lewandowski is the latest senior official in Trump's orbit who has met with the committee as part of its investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign."

Source:
FISHING EXPEDITION
Some Members Seek to Wrap Up Russia Investigations by Year’s End
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"A growing number of key Republicans are sending this message to the leaders of the congressional committees investigating potential Trump campaign collusion with the Russians: Wrap it up soon. In the House and Senate, several Republicans who sit on key committees are starting to grumble that the investigations have spanned the better part of the past nine months, contending that the Democratic push to extend the investigation well into next year could amount to a fishing expedition."

Source:
WROTE LAW THAT WEAKENED OPIOID OVERSIGHT
Trump: Marino Withdrawing Nomination for Drug Czar
4 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

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