In the past twenty four hours we have witnessed a glaring example of all that is wrong in Washington. We have observed a confluence of special interests, self interest and money, crashing together in such a destructive way as to jeopardize the most the world’s most powerful economy. All done to achieve a goal long since discarded as unachievable.
Here is a brief summary of what transpired in what may have been one of the most bizarre days in our history.
Senate leaders Reid and McConnell started the day by announcing that they had reaches an agreement on the framework of a shot term deal that would re-open the government and raise the debt limit. Both gentlemen commented on how pleased they were with the progress.
Details of the Senate bill leaked to the House. Suddenly Speaker Boehner announced that the House would bring a bill of its own to the floor. The Senate suspended its negotiations in anticipation of the House bill.
Boehner took a straw count of his caucus and realized he didn’t have the Republican votes he needed to pass his bill. So within a couple of hours of announcing that he would place a bill on the floor…Boehner withdrew the bill.
The chambers were still buzzing over this strange turn of events when Boehner announced that he would bring yet ANOTHER bill to the floor. This bill dovetailed closely with the framework of the Senate bill except that it added a bizarre clause that would remove the subsidies under Obamacare for members of congress AND THEIR STAFFS. Congressional staffers make $29,000 a year. This clause would essentially cut staffer’s pay. Boehner announces that a House vote on the bill will occur later that night.
The next thing we hear is that Jim Demint, president of the Heritage Foundation, a powerful conservative think and major donor to Republican candidates, has sent a letter to Boehner stating that the foundation opposes the House bill because it does not go far enough to defund Obamacare. (Keep in mind that at this juncture the strategy of defunding Obamacare has long since been abandoned by the party rank in file as unachievable.) The letter further states that the foundation will be scoring the vote…in other words keeping track of who votes “yea” or “nay”. The letter assures Boehner that members who vote in support of the bill can expect a challenge from a foundation sponsored candidate come the 2014 elections. Demint closes by informing Boehner that the foundation has set aside over $500,000 to run attack ads against any Republican who dares to support the bill.
Minutes later Boehner announces that he is withdrawing the bill and that the House will not be conducting any votes for the remainder of the day. As the deadline looms, this schizophrenic behavior in the House has wasted valuable time.
Blindsided by the sudden and erratic turn of events in the House; Senate leaders who have been sitting on the sidelines, frantically take up negotiations.
Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings, the third largest of the major debt rating companies behind Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, announced that it was placing US Treasury bonds on a “Rating Watch Negative.” This “warning” is often the first step taken by the rating bureaus before issuing a rating downgrade.
What happens next rests on the shoulders of Ted Cruz and John Boehner.
The Senate will in all likelihood reach a bipartisan compromise. The question is will Ted Cruz allow a vote to take place? Or will Cruz filibuster the vote; delaying the measure at least long enough to breach the deadline. You have to remember that Cruz is one of many Tea Party members who do NOT believe that breaching the debt limit will have a disastrous impact on the economy.
If Cruz stands down and the senate passes the bill, the burden then moves to Speaker Boehner. Will Boehner bring the Senate bill to the House floor for a vote…a vote which will pass with bi-partisan support but may cost him his speakership? Or will Boehner invoke the Hastert Rule, refusing to bring the bill to the floor for a vote because it does not have the support of a majority of the majority. Such a move will save his speakership…but by all accounts cause serious damage to the economy.
Today is D-day! It’s all up to Cruz and Boehner.