Jonathan Chait is a senior editor at The New Republic.
One of the bizarre things about John Boehner's debt ceiling bill is that all the Republican opposition has come from the right. Nobody in the party thinks the bill is too recklessly conservative. Amazingly, Republicans all seem to believe Boehner's fairy story about how passage of his bill will lead to Senate Democrats passing it and President Obama signing it. Charles Krauthammer says Obama "won't dare" veto it. Douglas Holtz-Eakin agrees, and upon that premise spins an upside-down world in which the debt ceiling must be lifted, but the fault lies not with republicans who refuse either to simply lift the debt ceiling or even to meet Democrats 20% of the way on a budget compromise, but with Democrats who haven't helped Boehner.
"It's a concerted, bipartisan effort to snatch defeat when victory is in sight.
Let's start with the House Democrats who are content to make a political statement and sit on their hands. That means that the Boehner plan must pass with only Republican votes and Democrats don't care if financial markets melt down tomorrow morning (they will). Defeat for America as they seek their political agenda. ..."
Bizarre. I agree that it would be possible to get Democrats to fold on a bill that raised the debt ceiling and is wildly tilted in the Republican direction. Obama was offering a debt ceiling deal with way less revenue than the bipartisan Gang of Six! Harry Reid is offering an all-cuts deal!
But they can't get Democrats to fold on the Boehner bill, because the Boehner bill isn't a bad deal, it's less than nothing. Democrats are far better off going into August 2nd with no deal. Under the Boehner bill, Democrats immediately walk into another hostage situation. But that hostage situation would be worse than the current one, for three reasons:
1. The vote will be closer to the election, and wrangling votes to lift the debt ceiling will be harder.
2. Democrats will have already agreed to a trillion dollars in cuts, meaning that any further cuts will be deeper and more painful.
3. They'll have demonstrated previously that they're willing to do anything to avoid a default, so Republicans will be even more emboldened to demand massive concessions.
This isn't a situation like the $4 trillion deal Obama offered to Boehner, which was a terrible deal, but at least had some upside (bipartisan achievement for Obama, loosen pressure of the deficit issue, maybe some short-term stimulus) to compensate for its many flaws. This is a deal with zero upside and huge downside. Like I wrote before, it's like a kidnapper demanding for the release of your child $100,000 and your other child. It's not a deal even worth considering. The only purpose of it is to let Republicans escape blame for the debt ceiling crisis.
That's a good political rationale for Republicans to vote for it. But the idea that it's a plausible vehicle for advancing a negotiated settlement is insane.