RINOcracy.com has not always been an unalloyed admirer of Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Nevertheless, credit must be given where credit is due, although being named a RINO Hero is probably an honor that neither would relish. In any case, both gentlemen deserve credit for acting with skill and courage to avoid a “crisis” over the increase in the debt ceiling. As RINOcracy.com had previously noted, the increase in the debt ceiling was inevitable, but it was not at all clear that it would be accomplished with a minimum of embarrassment to Congressional Republicans. Moreover, as events unfolded, the seemingly irrepressible Ted Cruz did his best to create that embarrassment. […]
It is an overused cliché to say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Yet how better to describe the actions of the House Republicans in insisting that they must “get something” in order to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling? It is a demand that has the intellectual gravitas of a child refusing to eat her spinach unless she is given a cookie. […]
The budget agreement reached between Senator Murray and Rep. Ryan meets the most important precept of medical ethics: Primum non nocere (First, do no harm). The agreement, if approved by the House and Senate, will avoid the harm to the country that would follow from another government shutdown. It will also avoid the harm to the Republican Party from yet another demonstration of inability to function in a divided government. […]
Senator Patty Murray and Representative Paul Ryan have drawn the short straws: they chair the Conference Committee that is charged with reaching a budget agreement that will avert a second round of crises over a government shutdown (January 15) or a collision with the debt ceiling (February 7). The entire committee, totaling 29, consists of the entire Senate Budget Committee (12 Democrats and 10 Republicans) and 7 House members (4 Republicans, 3 Democrats).
No one, it is fair to say, is overly optimistic about the outcome. If the Grinch does not steal Christmas, he will be hovering not far away. It is a positive sign that Senator McConnell has expressly ruled out the use of a shutdown, and by implication a threat of default, as bargaining chips. As he put it rather colorfully, “One of my favorite sayings is an old Kentucky saying, ‘There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.’ ” Nevertheless, Ted Cruz and his cohorts in the Senate, and the Tea Party Oozlums in the House appear to have an appetite for mule kicks that is not easily satisfied. Moreover, the Conference Committee itself is hardly lacking in gritty conservatives: 9 of the 14 Republicans, including Ryan, voted against the bill that ended the just concluded crisis. (As noted in a prior blog, however, their votes were “free” in the sense that they were not required for the passage of the bill and may not reflect a tolerance for shutdown or default.) […]
The latest episode of our Washington soap opera descended into self-parody, recalling Carol Burnett’s classic “As the Stomach Turns.” Faithful to the formula, the episode ended with the major characters surviving but faced with dire predicaments just ahead. So it was with the bill finally passed by the Senate and House to end the government shutdown and the threat of imminent default. The crisis is over, but not for long: the operation of the government has been continued only through January 15 and the debt ceiling suspended only through February 7.
The most popular phrase to describe Wednesday night’s Congressional action is “kicking the can down the road.” If the beloved William Safire were still among us, he would no doubt enlighten us as to the origin of what has now become a cliché. In Safire’s absence, Timothy Noah of New Republic used Nexis to trace the term back to arms control discussions in the eighties. Noah suggested that kicking the can down the road had not been a bad idea in the earlier context and, writing last January, argued that it might even be the best approach to the budget deficit. Indeed, even in the most recent crisis it was certainly preferable to allowing a government default or even prolonging further the shutdown. But surely enough is enough. Lurching from crisis to crisis is not only a distraction from addressing other important issues, it also deepens public cynicism, and exacts a toll on the economy when we can ill-afford such a burden. That toll could be dubbed most fittingly “The Tea Party Tax” (or in the lexicon of RINOcracy.com, “The Oozlum Tax”). […]
Watching John Boehner’s interview with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday’s This Week program brought back sad and uncomfortable memories of Pete Seeger’s stinging ballad of 1967. For younger followers of this site, Waist Deep in the Big Muddy told the story of a platoon led into a treacherous stream by a stubborn Captain who does not survive the effort. (“We were — knee deep in the Big Muddy / But the big fool said to push on.”) It was widely understood at the time to be a metaphor for Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War. […]
Ted Cruz and the Oozlums have worked their will and the government has shutdown, at least in substantial part. (Newcomers to RINOcracy.com see Blog No. 12 for a definition of Oozlums.) Ironically, owing to the structure of appropriations laws, and arcane interpretations of the Anti-Deficiency Act, one part of the government that will not shutdown is…Obamacare. But elsewhere pain aplenty there will be.
Blog No 12 pointed out that a neither a shutdown, nor a default precipitated by a failure to raise the debt ceiling, are likely to escape punishment by the financial markets. Evidence of that result has already begun to accumulate. The losses in the stock market have thus far been manageable, but if the shutdown continues very long, or as the specter of default draws closer, the financial consequences will inevitably become more severe. At that point, Senator Cruz and the Oozlums will be widely recognized for their accomplishments as Wealthbusters. […]
It is difficult to describe the radical Republicans in Congress without resort to metaphors. As followers of this space know, the term favored here is Oozlums—referring to the legendary bird that flies in ever-decreasing concentric circles until it flies up into itself. That is indeed the flight path the radical “conservatives” have prescribed for the Republican Party. The current crusade of the Oozlums to attempt to defund Obamacare at all costs has earned them another fitting term. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal, surely not a watering hole for RINOs, described the frenzied crusaders as the Kamikaze wing of the party: “Republicans must threaten to crash their Zeros into the aircraft carrier of Obamacare…. Kamikaze missions rarely turn out well, least of all for the pilots.”
For several months, we have been spared the drama of a manufactured fiscal crisis. That period of relative calm has allowed the stock market to reach new highs and the broader economy to show signs of improvement. So favorable an environment, however, may soon be coming to an end: there are two fiscal deadlines this fall that could precipitate a crisis brought on by an imminent or actual government shutdown. Those deadlines arise from the need for a continuing resolution to continue funding the government after September 30, and the need to raise the debt ceiling. If either deadline should in fact precipitate a crisis, the precise consequences are impossible to predict, but it is certain they will not be pleasant—for the country or for Republicans.
A development in Congress last week seemed peculiar even by the standards of that troubled institution. For years, Republicans have been complaining – quite reasonably – about the failure of the Senate to pass a budget. Pass a budget, they said, and proceed with the process of negotiating a reconciliation of the budget passed by the House in the ordinary way. Now that the Senate has, after four years, finally passed a budget, three Republicans in the Senate, self-styled “tea-party conservatives,” have blocked the appointment of a Conference Committee to do exactly what the Republicans had been demanding. Senator John McCain’s description of that tactic as “bizarre” seems altogether fitting. […]