Boehner's Lowest Common Denominator Plan

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JONATHAN CHAIT JULY 25, 2011

Boehner's Lowest Common Denominator Plan

David Frum wonders why Republicans have decided to push for another debt ceiling vote in 2012:

House Republicans apparently regard the early renewal of the debt-ceiling debate as a feature, not a bug. It means that they can resume the debate over debt and deficits in the election season.

Except – I thought the 2012 election was supposed to be about the economy? Jobs and the Obama administration’s disappointing record of creating them?

Isn’t that the winning issue?

Why the eagerness to change the subject in 2012 to Republican plans to end the Medicare guarantee for those now under 55?

Isn’t that a big loser?

Nate Silver asks the same thing:

Not clear to me why GOP want another debt limit fight in the winter. Obama's polling isn't good on this, but theirs is terrible.

It's a good question. One possible explanation is that some Republicans are in denial about the Ryan plan's unpopularity. Another explanation is that extending the political and financial chaos into an election year increases the chances that Obama will be seen as a failure, and improves the prospects for a Republican nominee from outside Washington to pose as the savior.

But I don't think either of these is really the driving factor. My analysis is that John Boehner simply doesn't have the votes. Between members who hate raising the debt ceiling and members who hate taxes and members who hate cutting a grand bargain with Obama (however favorable the terms), he can't do anything. So the default plan, as it were, is to do nothing: Keep the debt ceiling hanging around, don't make a deal, don't raise taxes. Boehner's plan seems entirely designed to minimize objections within his caucus.

The plan is to avoid offending Republicans, keep Boehner in his role as Speaker for another six months or so and see what happens next. It's not really a great plan from any perspective, unless you're John Boehner and the alternative is being relieved of your power in short order.

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posted in: jonathan chait, washington, david frum, john boehner, medicare, republican party

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