5 Reasons The GOP Caved On The Debt Limit

John Boehner

RIP, debt ceiling crises.

It’s obvious that Republicans have lost their old passion for holding the global economy hostage. Their final demands would have required Democrats to agree to increase spending in the near term in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

In 2011, the GOP introduced the “Boehner rule,” which required — for the first time — that any raise of the debt limit be matched by cuts to the deficit. Their resolve triggered a small financial panic and the party won the automatic cuts in the sequester.

The GOP quickly folded on raising the limit in early 2013, but during the government shutdown it offered an insane menu of demands to the president in exchange for agreeing to pay the bills Congress already voted to run up. Republican leaders caved and set themselves up for another standoff in early 2014, which led to the most recent cave.

“We don’t have 218 votes,” Boehner said in a press conference on Tuesday. “When you don’t have 218 votes, you have nothing.”

The Speaker announced that he will vote for a clean debt limit raise that will last until 2015, well after the midterm elections. And he would try to find enough Republicans to help him pass the bill.

He then left the press conference singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” Within minutes, a conservative group was already calling for Boehner to be replaced.

It’s a wonderful day for Democrats, who have broken the GOP’s willingness to resort to extraordinary levels of brinksmanship.

Here are five reasons the GOP caved.

AFP Photo/Jim Watson

President Obama Refused To Negotiate


The president’s regret over the first debt limit crisis has shaped his second term. While he has shown that he’s willing to deal with the right and strike deals that do not please his base, he has refused to negotiate “with a gun to his head.”

This tactic revealed that Republicans were holding the gun to their own heads, with the public prepared to blame them if a default actually happened.

AFP Photo/Jewel Samad

Speaker Boehner Doesn’t Have 218 Votes For Anything

Michelle Bachmann

The Speaker has said again and again that he would not bring any bill to the floor that did not have a majority of his caucus supporting it. And again and again, he’s brought bills to the floor that did not have the majority of his caucus supporting them.

His allies say that the problem isn’t his leadership, but a group of House Republicans who only fear primary challenges from a wing of their own party — Tea Party, evangelical or business establishment — they don’t represent.

“Right now, Jesus himself couldn’t be the Speaker and get 218 Republicans behind something, so I think Speaker Boehner is trying his best to come up with a plan that can get close to that,” Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi (R-OH) recently said.

Boehner faced down a minor coup to maintain his speakership in early 2013. If he doesn’t have 218 votes for any debt limit deal, will he still have his job in 2015? And since he knows his party probably needs immigration reform to survive, why not just put the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill up for a vote and actually accomplish something in his tenure?

AFP Photo/Chip Somodevilla

The Deficit Has Been Cut In Half

Budget deficit

President Obama’s re-election also complicated the GOP’s plans in that he was able to end some of the Bush tax breaks for the richest. This combined with economic growth and some cuts has the deficit falling, possibly at the fastest pace ever. With the media unable to swell the right’s arguments with reports of exploding trillion-dollar deficits, Republicans have lost the momentum it takes to threaten another global economic disaster — even if 85 percent of the people who watch Fox News have no idea the deficit is actually shrinking.

Graph source: Sunlight Foundation, White House Office of Management and Budget

Graph credit: Alyson Hurt and Tamara Keith/NPR

Republicans Want To Make This Election About Obamacare

Obamacare Jobs

Republicans are confident that they are headed for control of the Senate and gains in the House because Obamacare is, in their minds, falling apart. Forget that vast majorities support keeping the law and fixing it. Forget that Republican alternatives have nearly all the problems that they’ve been complaining about in the president’s health law. Forget that a recent Congressional Budget Report showed the law lowers the deficit and the unemployment rate, and will get 13 million insured this year. According to the GOP, it’s bound to destroy Democrats.

The party’s strategists are sure the reason the government shutdown was a bad thing was because it took the focus off Obamacare. Now even Tea Partiers agree, 2014 will be about the Affordable Care Act — because that worked so well in 2012.

AFP Photo/David McNew

The Tea Party Is Delusional, Not Irrational


Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) did America a favor by taking the Tea Party mentality to the extreme.

He said, “We’re going to shut down the government and President Obama is going to get blamed for it.” Instead, Republicans took the blame and now have a brand even more damaged than when George W. Bush left office.

This slap to the face actually woke up Tea Partiers who — it turns out — aren’t irrational, according to The New Republic‘s Noam Scheiber:

The shutdown demonstrated that the Tea Partiers are, for the most part, delusional rather than irrational: They can be forced to reconsider a particular tactic if you persuade them it’s politically catastrophic. It just requires an epic level of public anger to break through their epistemically stunted consciousness. The Tea Partiers had basically believed that the country backed their monomaniacal fixation on repealing Obamacare, and their jihadi plan for getting it done. The shutdown, or at least the endless shutdown-inspired hand-wringing on Fox News, managed to disabuse even them of this belief.

Photo: jbouie via Flickr


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