Jonathan Cohn

Senior Editor

How Obama, Reid, and Pelosi Stopped Republican Extortion

Three reasons the Democrats won

It’s over. The Senate voted yes. The House voted yes. President Obama signed the bill and, on Thursday, the federal government is open for business again.

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Americans who want jobs or mortgages will suffer because John Boehner didn't have the guts to stiff the Tea Party

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Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have nearly completed a deal that would reopen the government and increase the Treasury Department's debt ceiling. President Obama has signalled his support, as have Democratic leaders in the House. But House Republicans aren't ready to give up on their dream of threatening shutdown and default to extract concessions. They're making yet another counter-offer, with some of the same demands Democrats rejected perviously—even though, within two days, Treasury is likely to exhaust the "extraordinary measures" it's been using to pay its bills.

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Senate leaders are near an agreement that would re-open the government and increase the debt ceiling. According to multiple media reports—and since confirmed by TNR sources—the funding would last through January 15, the debt ceiling through February 7.

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Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate Republicans, approached Democrats with a new offer over the weekend: He and his colleagues would vote to open the government and increase its borrowing authority, as long as Democrats would agree to accept the depleted spending levels of budget sequestration. Harry Reid, leader of the Senate Democrats, said no thanks. It was the third time in less than a week Democrats had spurned a Republican overture.

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The Republican fever is starting to come down. It hasn’t broken yet.Members of the Senate GOP on Friday met with President Obama, just as House Republicans had done one day before. And like their House counterparts, they sketched out an idea for ending the current political impasse—so that the federal government reopens and, no less important, so that the Treasury Department gets new borrowing authority to pay incoming bills.

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The debate over funding government and avoiding default has officially reached the chaos stage. By my count, no less than four separate conversations are taking place right now: The White House is talking to House Republicans and, separately, it to Senate Republicans. In the Senate, moderate Republicans are talking to the Democratic leadership. In the House, Republicans from the party’s extreme wing are talking to Republicans from the not-so-extreme wing, all under the watchful eye of the caucus leaders. And that’s just the official dialogue.

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House Republican leaders on Thursday morning announced that they have a new proposal and it hews to the outlines media outlets reported overnight. Basically, House Republicans would leave the government shut down but give it about six weeks' worth of borrowing authority. Assuming I understand what the Republicans have in mind, the idea would be to use that time for some kind of broader negotiation on fiscal policy, entitlements, etc.—and, somewhere along the way, to start funding normal government operations again.

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Republican leaders and, finally, many of their followers are coming to grips with the obvious: They can't use the government shutdown or threat of default to kill Obamacare. But some conservatives aren’t quite ready to give up—whether because of heartfelt sentiment or political opportunism, or some combination of the two. That’s left GOP leaders searching for some kind of blow they can deal, ideally as they negotiate a way to restore govenrment funding and raise the debt ceiling.

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The big news this morning is a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Paul Ryan, in which he dangles a new offer to President Obama and the Democrats. According to Ryan, Republicans could agree to fund the government (thereby ending the shutdown) and increase Treasury’s borrowing limit (thereby avoiding default) as long as Obama and the Democrats agree to negotiations over fiscal policy.

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