I’ve been relatively optimistic about how the debt ceiling fight would end up throughout the process, but not until the last day or two could I have imagined it could end with as significant a win for Republicans as now seems to be within their grasp.
As the details of the Boehner bill become clearer, it’s increasingly apparent that the bill is just what the moment calls for: significant cuts achieved through statutory sequestration caps, no tax increase, no backsliding on entitlement reform or implicit acceptance of Obamacare, a path to another process that could lead to more cuts without tax increases, and the setting of a precedent that from now on increases in the debt ceiling must be accompanied by proportional spending cuts. It’s far from perfect, of course—meaningful entitlement reform is the only way to really address the debt problem, and even short of that some more significant discretionary cuts would be good—but Republicans don’t control Washington, and given their limited formal power, an end to this process that looks something like this bill would be pretty remarkable.
Even the Reid bill, though its cuts are less real, would be a better conclusion than has seemed plausible throughout much of this process, and there is nothing particularly important about a “short-term” rather than a “long-term” increase, provided a long-term one maintains the one-for-one ratio of spending cuts to debt-ceiling increase. Something between the two bills, which is now perhaps the most that Democrats can hope for, would be an extraordinary win for Republicans.
But frankly, it’s not clear Reid can even get his bill through the Senate. If Boehner can get his through the House, the Senate would have to take up that bill (perhaps with modest amendments) and Republicans would set themselves up for a pretty stunning victory. Either way, if the Boehner bill passes then things will have turned fairly dramatically in favor of the Republicans, and the Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves, and above all the president.