Friday, September 27, 2013

A Necessary Fight

Go to 32 minute mark

President Obama just finished delivering his statement at the White House. He announced the good news of his phone conversation with President Rouhani; and he celebrated the diplomatic breakthrough in the Syrian CW disarmament initiative by saying that the Security Council permanent members (US, UK, France, China, and Russia) have agreed on a Resolution to Disarm and Dismantle Syrian CW. But the core of his statement was a stern, clear warning to Congress: Do not shut down the Government. Do not prevent Treasury from paying the country's bills by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. And I will not negotiate over the debt ceiling.

It all seems very clear to me: If Congress (meaning the House) does not fulfill its obligation to pass a Budget or a Continuing Resolution before the beginning of the new fiscal year (12:01 am, Tuesday, October 1), the Government will shut down; our modest recovery could abort; working folks will suffer. If this happens, it will be the fault of the GOP-led House. The Senate has done its job: it passed a CR stripping out the Obamacare defunding, and sent it back to the House. It's up to the House, and therefore up to the House GOP.

On raising the debt ceiling (drop dead date is October 17), Obama will not negotiate. If the ceiling is breached and we go into default, this will be on the GOP entirely.

I'm convinced the President is rock solid on this. Many liberals are less sure. Jonathan Chait wrote a powerful piece this morning for New York Magazine titled "The Debt Ceiling Showdown is the Fight of Obama's Life", one he simply must win. I presume Chait is hoping to help Obama "screw his courage to the sticking point", so he won't repeat what he feels were the mistakes of the summer of 2011. Here's Chait

As the debt-ceiling deadline ticks toward midnight, Obama ought to be able to make his determination clear enough that House Republican leaders understand their only choices are to raise the debt ceiling or breach it. Default would risk not only economic calamity but the potential of an electoral one for the otherwise unassailable Republican majority. But history is replete with disastrous miscalculations. They’re often made by weak, short-sighted leaders facing pressure to demonstrate toughness from internal opponents. That is to say, Boehner is exactly the kind of leader who would blunder into a calamity like a debt default.
Yet Obama simply has no alternative but to accept that risk. The stakes are higher than resisting the specific demands Republicans are making, and higher even than the economic havoc of a debt breach. Obama is fighting to save his presidency.
I believe Chait is entirely correct. This is a necessary fight, with retreat not an option. But this is not just to save Obama's presidency; it's to secure the country. As I wrote yesterday, I think Boehner will come around, both on the Budget and the Debt Ceiling, and allow a vote that will pass with mostly Democratic votes; but my confidence in that prediction is modest at best.

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