Debt Ceiling: Tea Party Making Life Hell For GOP Leaders
This excellent story by Nick Carey at Reuters about how the tea party folks are making life exceedingly difficult for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is well worth a few minutes of your time.
Carey's story provides some important updates my post from March 22 about my experience speaking at the first meeting of the House tea party caucus. Here's what I concluded back then:
First, after talking with a number of the members of Congress who attended, it was clear that at least some GOP representatives who are tea party supporters were going to vote against extending the CR the next day. Several told me that their leadership’s unwillingness to cut off funding for health care reform was a big problem for them because they were assuming that once it was taken off the table, cutting off funding would never come back.
Second, the tea party folks – both members of Congress and others – do not trust House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) or Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) not to sell out their agenda.
Third, as I’ve been saying for a while, compromise is not an option.
Carey's piece indicates that the tea party distrust of Boehner and Cantor I saw and heard first-hand at the caucus meeting has now grown to the point where, as was threatened at that meeting, there is real interest in running someone against them in the Republican primaries in their congressional districts. It also shows that a voting for an increase in the debt ceiling is not something tea party folks consider acceptable under any circumstances.
The implication of Carey's story for the debt ceiling fight are simple:
- Boehner can't...and almost certainly won't...agree to any increase in the debt ceiling until the very last minute. To avoid or survive the primary challenge he's facing, he has to look like he's driven the hardest possible bargain and agreeing to anything quickly -- even if it was total surrender from the White House and congressional Democrats on health care, spending, taxes, and Dodd-Frank -- would look to tea party types as if he could have gotten more. In other words, if Treasury says the U.S. has until August 2 before a failure to increase the debt ceiling becomes a critical problem, expect a deal no earlier than August 1.
- Boehner needs Wall Street to react negatively to the situation so that he has a reason for agreeing to a debt ceiling increase. You almost have to wonder if he and the White House have worked out an arrangement where Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and others in the administration will use increasingly dire language about what will happen if the debt ceiling isn't raised just so that Boehner has something that provides a rationale for action on the bill.
- As I said yesterday here at CG&G, Boehner won't be able to pass a debt ceiling increase in the House without Democratic votes. The more the tea party pushes Republican House members on this, the more leverage the Democrats will have.