Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) each laid down incompatible positions on the debt limit Tuesday, possibly setting the stage for another round of brinksmanship this fall over whether the federal government will default on its obligations.
“We are not negotiating on the debt ceiling,” Reid told reporters. “The President has said this. I’ve said it. And I don’t know how many more times we need to say that.”
He was responding to a question about whether he’d consider GOP demands such as defunding Obamacare or significantly cutting spending in exchange for raising the debt limit.
Just hours earlier, Boehner put down an equally categorical marker.
“We’re not going to raise the debt ceiling without real cuts in spending. It’s as simple as that,” he said. He floated the so-called “Boehner rule” requiring dollar-for-dollar cuts, which Democrats acceded to in 2011 in order to raise the debt limit, as the right way to go.
Of course, if there is one thing Boehner has demonstrated time and again it’s that a last minute blink can never be ruled out. He does seem to be picking up a little semblance of a backbone since completely caving at the beginning of the year. We will know for certain just how strong he his when the immigration reform drama is all over in the House. After his embarrassment with the Farm Bill he may be fearing for the safety of his Speakership for the first time since assuming it. That’s the only real leverage House conservatives have. Prior to the Farm Bill, I was convinced it would always be business as usual with Boehner but that may have gotten the message through. On rare occasions, a political animal’s survival instincts can work in the public’s favor.