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 »
DOCUMENTS OBTAINED BY U.S. INTEL
Putin-Linked Think Tank Developed Plan to Influence U.S. Election
3 days ago
THE LATEST

A Russian government think tank run by Putin loyalists "developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system." Two confidential documents from the Putin-backed Institute for Strategic Studies, obtained by U.S. intelligence, provide "the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election."

Source:
HELPED WIN FISA APPROVAL
FBI Relied on Dossier Allegations to Monitor Page
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification" to monitor Carter Page, who was then a defense adviser to the Trump campaign. "The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks."

Source:
AIR FORCE SCRAMBLES JETS IN RESPONSE
Russian Bombers Fly Near Alaska
5 days ago
WHY WE CARE
A MESSAGE TO RUSSIA?
Pentagon Deploying F-35s to Europe
1 weeks ago
THE LATEST

"The Air Force is set to deploy its high-tech, fifth-generation F-35A fighter jets to Europe this weekend as part of an effort to assure U.S. allies there who are worried about Russian aggression." The new, state-of-the-art fighters will train with European air units. "The Pentagon noted that the deployment had been long planned, meaning it was not a reaction to recent increasing tensions between the United States and Russia," although a statement noted the move is part of the "European Reassurance Initiative," which began three years ago when Russia annexed Crimea.

Source:
NOT ON SCHEDULE
Tillerson Meets Putin
1 weeks ago
BREAKING
×
×

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