Saturday, July 30, 2011


The main editorial page of The New York Times has been an oasis of mainstream-media sanity throughout the debt crisis. For instance, even before John Boehner added more poison tea to his bill to get it through the House, the editorial page called his bill "irredeemably awful," while criticizing Harry Reid's hostage-concession bill as not much better.

But while the Times editorial page knows we're going in precisely the wrong direction, today's lead editorial suggests a lack of understanding of just how bad the situation is right now. Here's the headline, accompanied by the subhead that appears in the print edition:

It's Up to the Senate
The House has made itself irrelevant on the debt limit, but the Senate can still avert a crisis

Excuse me, but that's just plain wrong -- at least it's wrong the way the body of the editorial puts it (emphasis added):

It was hard to imagine that the House bill to raise the debt limit, and slash and burn the economy, could get any worse. But on Friday it did.

The bill, which narrowly passed the House with 218 Republican votes and none from Democrats, would allow the government to keep borrowing only until November or December and then require both the Senate and the House to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution before the limit could be raised again.

That's right, in a bid to win over his recalcitrant caucus, Speaker John Boehner agreed to go through all of this again in just a few months -- and then hold the country hostage to passing an amendment that will never get the two-thirds of each chamber that it would need. The bill was, as it should have been, promptly dismissed by the Senate.

Now the only hope left for avoiding default on Tuesday is for the Senate to piece together a compromise that can pass with bipartisan majorities in both chambers. It will undoubtedly cut far too much, at a time when the economy can't afford it. It will contain no needed revenue increases and could still trigger a downgrade. But it would eliminate the imminent threat of financial chaos....

I'm sorry, but it's time that we recognizing how desperate the situation is. There is no compromise that "can pass with bipartisan majorities in both chambers." By rejecting Boehner's awful bill and accepting it only when he made it worse by adding mandatory passage of an entitlement-eviscerating balanced budget amendment, the House has shown us precisely how much compromising it's willing to go: next to none. A compromise? This is their idea of a compromise. As many teabag House members have said, just allowing a debt ceiling increase at all is a compromise to them. The process has so emboldened them that they wouldn't even collect their winnings and pass the Boehner bill on Wednesday or Thursday, which means that they think they don't have to concede any more than this.

I just want the remaining sane people in this process -- officeholders and members of the media -- to grasp that the House crazies really don't think they have to make any more concessions. I want them to understand that, far from making itself irrelevent, the House has probably just passed the shit sandwich we're going to have to eat as we go from 11:59 to midnight to 12:01 and beyond in this crisis.

I want this because I want them to have a plan for that eventuality. It's crazy for the Times to tell us that the amendment "will never get the two-thirds of each chamber that it would need," because, again, the House zealots will leave us no alternative. If Democrats have to vote to pass that balanced budget amendment at Christmastime or the economy gets it, are Democrats going to have a counternarrative to explain that the amendment will eviscerate Medicare and Social Security, but a yes vote by Democrats is being recorded with a gun to their heads? Do we have a plan to fight this amendment in the state legislatures? Can we overcome the inevitable Koch and Rove money, as well as the inevitable low-information-voter "Gee, a balanced budget amendment sounds nice" sentiment, to beat this in thirteen states?

In other words, can we please start thinking about this now -- not when it's upon us, the way we react to every other crisis, including the current debt-ceiling crisis?


You think I'm exaggerating about how little the House GOP is willing to compromise? Take a look at the list of GOP no votes on the revised, worsened Boehner bill that passed last night. Look at some of the names: Michelle Bachmann. Ron Paul. Joe "You Lie!" Wilson. Steve King. Joe Walsh. Justin Amash. Jason Chaffetz. Tim Scott. These are hardcore far-rightists. If you learned that there were 22 no votes and thought, "Oh, well, there are 22 Republicans to start with who are willing to reject this level of extremism," meaning a compromise is possible, I'm telling you that the no votes were a way of saying the revised Boehner bill is still too "liberal." There's no hope of compromise. It's the 14th Amendment or whatever they want.


And, yeah, I suppose a reasonable response is that I'm looking at the count all wrong -- the point of a Reid bill is to get all the House Dems and a few dozen House Republicans. Well, I just question whether there's a sufficient number of House Republicans who are (a) non-crazies and (b) willing to risk a suicide-bomber teabag primary. I'm not convinced that there are.

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