Last Friday, the House GOP emerged from their retreat waving their white flag, noting that they would not hold the economy hostage (at least for another 3 months) over extending the debt limit. Given that this weekend has been largely given over to inauguration news and thoughts on the next 4 years, there hasn’t been a ton of attention on this — which is probably why they surrendered in a Friday afternoon news dump.
Even so, the plan the GOP thinks it has moving forward isn’t exactly the plan of people with alot of cards to play. They think that they can force both Houses to pass a budget, and if either House fails to do so, they don’t get paid. There’s a fair amount of speculation as to whether interfering with the pay of Congresspeople and Senators is constitutional, but frankly I don’t care if they get paid. Nancy Pelosi calls this entire business a gimmick and she’d be correct. What this relies on (and the folks at the editorial page of the NJ have fallen for this lock, stock and barrel) is you not knowing how Congress works and how much credibility you give to wingnut talking points. While a budget may be required by law, it is a policy document ONLY — there is no obligation to follow that budget once you get to passing the Appropriations Bills. These are where the action is and where the actual authorizations to spend money happen. And do note that it is Congress to authorizes the spending of money — not the President. So raising the debt ceiling is still about getting Congress to pay the bills they rack up. Certainly they are obligated to produce a budget, but not having one doesn’t get in the way of doing Appropriations Bills to make sure that the government runs.
So while the NJ is looking for more gimmicks, how about a gimmick that might get the Senate GOP to not filibuster a budget? Because it doesn’t matter what happens in the Senate, a budget *will* be filibustered and you are back to square one. Or you are back to working on Appropriations Bills. Chuck Schumer says that the Senate will definitely produce a budget — but one with both tax reform built in AND with new revenues built in. The GOP gimmick here is that they think that they get to fight against Senate Democrats AND that the sequester is their leverage. Oddly, that sequester gets them a bunch of spending cuts, which they say they want. So you’d think that this isn’t an especially good hostage. Although I know that there are plenty of Democrats who badly want to avoid the DOD cuts that the sequester executes, at the end of the day, both parties get the spending cuts they so showily keep saying they want.
At this point, everyone is waiting for the bill that extends the debt ceiling — to see if it is a clean bill or loaded up with a bunch of teajhadi BS and to hear what President Obama’s response is. But a surrendered GOP is a good thing and it is important to make sure that they are reminded often about how bad their hand is.