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 »
HE WAS 89
Former Rep. Bill Goodling Dies
18 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

Former Rep. Bill Goodling (R-PA), who served 26 years in the House representing York County, PA, died Sunday at age 89. Goodling, who succeeded his father George Goodling in 1975, "faced few serious opponents over the years, winning 13 consecutive terms. He retired in 2001." He also served as chair of the House Education and Labor Committee from 1995-2001.

Source:
AGENCY RESOURCES HAVE BEEN STRETCHED
Don Jr. and Conway Give Up Secret Service Protection
1 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"Donald Trump Jr., his wife Vanessa Trump, and Kellyanne Conway are dropping Secret Service protection, Fox News has confirmed. The move to get rid of round-the-clock protection came after Trump Jr. wished to have more privacy. Other family members of the president will remain under Secret Service protection." Conway dropped the protection after the threat level against her dropped from earlier in the administration.

Source:
OVER BREXIT
UK Foreign Sec. Johnson Threatens to Resign
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson "will resign as Foreign Secretary before the weekend if Theresa May veers towards a 'Swiss-style' arrangement with the EU in her Brexit speech in Florence, The Telegraph understands." He "believes he will have no option but to walk out of the Cabinet if the Prime Minister advocates permanently paying for access to the single market."

Source:
BUDGET TO COME FIRST
Trillion-Dollar Tax Cut in the Offing for Senate GOP
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Senate Republicans are considering writing a budget that would allow for up to $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade. ... A budget that creates fiscal room for a $1.5 trillion tax cut, if adopted, would then be followed by a tax bill that would specify rate cuts and other policy changes that don’t exceed that figure. Calling for a tax cut in the budget would let Republicans lower tax rates while making fewer tough decisions on what tax breaks to eliminate to help pay for the cuts."

Source:
89-8 VOTE ON MONDAY
Senate Votes to Boost Defense Spending by $700 Billion
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a sweeping defense policy bill that would pump $700 billion into the military, putting the U.S. armed forces on track for a budget greater than at any time during the decade-plus wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senators passed the legislation by an 89-8 vote Monday."

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