What is the matter with Republicans? Why can’t they make a deal with the president?
After all, he’s so reasonable, so accommodating, so…so…
So two-faced about negotiations.
President Obama signaled Saturday that he wouldn’t accept the Republicans’ offer for a short-term increase in the nation’s debt limit.
“It wouldn’t be wise, as some suggest, to just kick the debt ceiling can down the road for a couple months, and flirt with a first-ever intentional default right in the middle of the holiday shopping season,” Obama said in his weekly address.
“Because damage to America’s sterling credit rating wouldn’t just cause global markets to go haywire; it would become more expensive for everyone in America to borrow money. Students paying for college. Newlyweds buying a home,” he said.
House Republicans have offered a six-week increase in the debt limit. If adopted, the plan will buy time for broader negotiations over entitlement spending and taxes, they say.
The only problem is that the president’s press secretary said on Thursday that Obama would indeed accept a short-term debt increase.
President Obama would sign a bill approving a short-term debt ceiling hike, even without an agreement to end the government shutdown, the White House said Thursday.
Still, it’s Obama’s preference to raise the debt ceiling for a longer period of time, while also reopening the government, press secretary Jay Carney said.
“The president is happy that cooler heads at least seem to be prevailing in the House, that there at least seems to be a recognition that default is not an option,” Carney told reporters during his daily briefing. But, he added, “the president believes that it would be far better for the Congress, and in this case the House, to raise the debt ceiling for an extended period of time.”
Carney wouldn’t rule out the prospect that Obama would nonetheless sign a short-term extension, but reserved judgment until the White House gets a full proposal. “We have seen nothing, obviously no proposal, from House Republicans yet. There’s no bill to look at,” he said, and the details of a proposal that can pass the House critical to whether the president can support it.
Still, Carney later said, “if a clean debt limit bill is passed [Obama] would likely sign it.”
This has every appearance of being an ad-hoc strategy. The president knows he has the GOP by the short hairs and will now extract maximum concessions, humiliating Republicans in the bargain. He will not help them out of the box they have put themselves in.
Where does this leave the GOP? In hell, I think. House Republicans are not likely to support a long-term debt increase and a re-opening of government for any length of time under any circumstances. This leaves Boehner where he was on Wednesday before there were any proposals at all. If Boehner is going to move a debt ceiling bill through the House it is going to have to be clean and for a period of months, not weeks. If only a handful of Republicans support him, he is going to have to rely on the Democrats to help him avoid default.
The Collins plan in the Senate envisions a much longer increase in the debt limit, so at least that option is still alive. But how willing are the Democrats to bargain over future budget talks, tax and entitlement reform, and changes to the sequester?
If Obama sticks to his guns and refuses to sign a short-term debt increase, we are in a worse position to avoid the October 17 deadline for a default than we were just 48 hours ago.