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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

On Thursday, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives released its list of demands to refrain from sparking a global financial crisis by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. The ransom note — which includes policies such as delaying the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, approving the Keystone XL pipeline, means-testing Medicare, and easing regulations on Wall Street, among other bullet points from Mitt Romney’s 2012 platform — was far to the right of anything that the White House, Senate, or American public would consider signing on to.

Now, in what New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait accurately describes as “the House GOP-est thing ever,” it’s becoming clear that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) does not have enough votes to pass the extreme proposal — because the right wing of his caucus does not think that it’s extreme enough.

“We still have some challenges,” Deputy Majority Whip Tom Cole (R-OK) told The Hill on Thursday night. “We’ve got an awful lot of support, but clearly at this point we don’t have a final product that’s attracting the number that we need. Hopefully that’ll change, and I think it could.”

Congressman Tom Rooney (R-FL) laid out the right’s complaint with the proposal: “The problem for me is it doesn’t address the debt,” Rooney told The Hill.

Ironically, Rooney is right; the GOP proposal would actually do very little to bring down the national debt. Where Rooney is wrong, of course, is his assumption that forcing America to default on its debt would accomplish anything positive for the economy.

If The Hill’s report is accurate, and Speaker Boehner does not have the 217 Republican votes he needs to pass his ransom note, then the proposal is dead in the water (as no Democrat will vote for making the passage of the Romney/Ryan plan a precondition for America paying its bills). That would make the debt ceiling debate a magnified version of Boehner’s humiliating farm bill defeat, and leave the Speaker with two options. Either he could partner with House Democrats to raise the debt ceiling without preconditions — a political defeat that would almost certainly cost him the Speaker’s gavel — or he could give in to the right wing of his caucus once again, crafting a proposal that would be completely unacceptable to Democrats, sparking a fiscal disaster and quite possibly costing him his job and Republicans their House majority. In other words, there are no good options for the top-ranking Republican.

Ironically, while Speaker Boehner once again games out the politics of holding the American economy as a hostage, House Republicans will converge in D.C. on Friday for a screening of the new movie Prisoners.

Photo: Medill DC via Flickr.com

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