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#Cliffgate Update: GOP Wants Obama To Negotiate With Himself

28 Sep 2013
Posted by Stan Collender

One of the biggest differences between the current shutdown situation and the ones that occurred in 1995 and 1996 is that Bill Clinton could negotiate with Newt Gingrich knowing that the deal they agreed to would be accepted by their respective political parties.

That's absolutely not the case today.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) clearly does not speak for the House GOP caucus. Indeed, Boehner has been slapped down by his caucus so often and so hard in recent days that it's more likely almost anything he would agree to will be rejected out of hand than it will be taken seriously.

There's no one after Boehner. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has shown no willingness to take the lead. In addition, with Cantor supporting the Boehner plans that have been rejected, it is not clear that he has the ability to convince the House GOP caucus to do anything either.

And if that's not enough, Cantor's performance during the fiscal cliff negotiations, when he unilaterally stopped negotiating with Vice President Biden rather than compromise, creates grave doubts about his willingness and ability to be of help this time around.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) should be the natural person for the caucus to turn to in this situation. But...and its a very telling but...he has been completely AWOL and apparently has intentionally played no role whatsoever in the shutdown/debt ceiling debate. There's no reason to expect him to step up now.

The situation in the Senate is similar. In wake of the revolt led by Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) the past few weeks, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) obviously no longer can guarantee that he speaks for the Senate GOP caucus or can convince it to do anything, at least when it comes to budget-related issues. And McConnell's tea party challenger in the Kentucky GOP primary gives him little room to maneuver in any case.

There's no one behind McConnell. Paul Ryan's equivalent -- Senate Budget Committee Ranking Republican Jeff Sessions (R-AL) does not have the standing the sell a deal to the Senate GOP caucus let alone to House Republicans.

So for everyone who insists the president should be negotiating with congressional Republicans to avoid a shutdown , ask yourself one question: With whom should the president negotiate?

At the moment, anything the president offers would only be a move away from his current position with no assurance that anyone could do anything but reject the proposal. No one on the opposite side of the table is in any position to counter.

That's just asking the White House to negotiate with itself.

Boehner Plan?

It seems that the plan was to put all the tea party wish list into the debt ceiling bill, then pass a clean CR with the strategy "we'll fight on the debt ceiling instead". But it looks like the tea partiers saw through that gambit and want to fight on the CR. Thoughts?

So now we can proceed to the over/under betting...

...on shutdown duration. Senator Coburn was quoted as noting that the GOP would fold after "8-9 days"; Our host is at "at least a week". I think 9 days is especially likely since that bring us up to October 11, and by that time, the debt limit issue will have been made so compelling that I expect the House to pass a clean CR for a month or two just to get it out of the way.

October 17, the projected potential default date, is a Thursday; maybe just maybe we get lucky and the day of reckoning floats past October 18, but then the raise really has to take place by the time the markets open on Monday. And, actually, I think they will want to have something in place by the previous Monday, October 14.

The Companion Bill meant to make a shutdown palatable

In addition to the re-amended CR, the House is also taking up a bill to pay active military during any shutdown. I presume that in addition to the stated purpose, this bill would have the side effect of making a (partial) government shutdown more palatable to certain lawmakers. Thomas doesn't have anything yet, so we will have to make do with The Hill's version:

Actually, this pays active military as well as civilians and contractors directly supporting them, with no dollar figure attached. Pretty odd. But potentially not so easy to vote against. (But, of course, voting for it would likely make it easier to keep everything else closed.)

shutdown / debt ceiling

i see but one way out -- admittedly extreme, but i see no other constitutional way of breaking these obstructionists. a new speaker must be elected, with perhaps 50 Republican votes and the Democrats. choosing the person who could fit this position would be difficult, but i think people of good will would rally around some member in times of extreme crisis. this would be an extraordinary act to acknowledge the current fiction of "Republicans" and "Democrats" no longer describes the party system in the U.S. i see no other way to treat the Tea Party as the minority that they indeed are.

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