In a telling reversal, the White House has signaled a willingness to consider a short-term extension of the debt ceiling if necessary to “finalize the details” of a larger package. The move would presumably give lawmakers the extra time they need to hammer out the details of the $3.7 trillion deficit-reduction plan put forward by the Gang of Six, which Obama has embraced, but still needs to be drafted into legislative language and scored by the Congressional Budget Office before it can come to a vote.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.), a member of the Gang, told reporters Wednesday that a short-term extension would be very helpful and that five months would be sufficient. “That would work with our plan,” he said. At the time, Chambliss didn’t think President Obama or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) would go for the idea, but that likely illustrates the magnitude of the reversal.
Obama had pledged to veto an increase to the debt ceiling that didn’t get him through the 2012 election. White House press secretary Jay Carney said anything less would be just as bad as a default. And the president’s recent dust-up with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) occurred after Cantor repeatedly brought up the possibility of a short-term extension.
All told, this is great news for the Gang of Six and its supporters, not so much for House Republicans and supporters of “Cut, Cap, and Balance.” It’s also a mixed bag for House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), who could face an ugly revolt if he tries to pass the Gang’s plan as is (see Paul Ryan’s critical assessment here).
Boehner and Cantor will meet with President Obama at the White House at 5 p.m. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Carney clarifies that the White House would only support a short-term extension of “a few days,” and only if needed to get a bigger deal through the “legislative process.” Either way, Obama has blinked.