There's not much I need to say to introduce my column from today's Roll Call other than that I really felt I had no choice but to write this as directly as I did. A special shout out to Roll Call for not blinking even once when I told them what I wanted to write this week
The Irresponsibility of Speaker John Boehner
May 22, 2012, Midnight
Like most federal budget watchers, I assumed that the extremely negative political reaction to the federal government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 meant that tactic wasn’t likely to be threatened again, let alone actually used. That changed last year when a shutdown became the favored approach for many on Capitol Hill.
Roll Call is reporting that the White House has decided to delay making the formal request to Congress that it previously announced it would make today for the third increase in the federal debt ceiling that is allowed by the Budget Control Act, the debt ceiling increase deal enacted in early August.
This means that the 15-day period during which Congress may consider a resolution of disapproval will not expire while the House and Senate are out of session and that representatives and senators who want or need to vote against the $1.2 trillion increase in the government's borrowing limit will have an opportunity to do so.
As I posted several days ago, there is no practical effect of this change because the debt ceiling is virtually guaranteed to be raised whether or not there's a vote. The disapproval legislation will be vetoed anyway in the unlikely event that both houses adopt it, and there isn't a two-thirds majority in either the House or Senate to override.
There was a flurry of activity in the media and on Wall Street yesterday after the White House let it be known that it was going to request a $1.2 trillion increase in the federal debt ceiling on Friday.
I received a number of calls from reporters and clients wanting to know if this was just a bureaucratic exercise of the government's responsibilities or a power play by the Obama administration that would end up angering Congress and starting yet another round of hyperbolic and hyperventilating fights over the budget.
Everyone please take a deep breath. This may be fun to talk about but doesn't change the very likely outcome -- an on time increase in the debt ceiling -- in any way.
Here are the basics:
1. To request this increase, the Obama administration is using the procedure agreed to in the Budget Control Act that was enacted in early August. This is the same law that created the anything-super committee that so completely failed to agree on a deficit reduction plan.
Long-time CG&G visitors may recall that My Beautiful and Talented Wife (The BTW) is a professional actor who tends to think of the world in theater terms. As I continued to describe the events of the past few weeks to her, she kept saying that it reminded her of the plot of something by William Shakespeare (or Game of Thrones on HBO, but that's a different post).
The question was which of Shakespeare's plays was most appropriate.
As this article by renowned University of Texas Professor Jamie Galbraith indicates, Much Ado About Nothing might be right. Given the fact that most of the action took place in July and August and a week or so later and is still hard to imagine, A Midsummer Night's Dream might be correct. The Tempest is an obvious choice. And The Comedy of Errors is just too good to pass up without further consideration.