The Very Small Sacrifice That's Not On The Table

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JONATHAN CHAIT JULY 29, 2011

The Very Small Sacrifice That's Not On The Table

As Ezra Klein points out, John Boehner is facing the real problem that any passable debt ceiling deal will provoke a rebellion from his own caucus:

We’ve now seen the same farce play out four times. Republican leaders get close to a deal and then, just before they can close it, their members revolt and they have to pull back. The first time was when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor walked out of the Biden talks rather than discuss revenue. The second and third time when when Boehner walked out on the various iterations of the $4 trillion deal he had been cutting with Obama. And the fourth time is playing out right now. Boehner is rewriting his bill so that it links any increase in the debt ceiling to the passage of a balanced budget amendment.

The basic problem is this. Lifting the debt ceiling requires a bill that's acceptable to 217 members of the House, 60 Senators, and President Obama. The easiest way to get a bill like that would be to write something that passes the House with maybe 10-20% of House Republicans supporting it, and the rest of the votes coming from Democrats. Unfortunately for Boehner, such a scenario would probably result in House Republicans kicking him out of his job. So we're stuck relying on a vote coalition containing most of the House GOP caucus, which means relying on people who are extremely reluctant to raise the debt ceiling or to compromise at all.

So basically, we're risking mass financial havoc so that... John Boehner can remain as House Speaker, and not have to go be a lobbyist making way more money. That sounds like a bad trade-off for virtually in the world everybody except Boehner. (Boehner's family might even take that deal.)

It seems odd to me that, of all the potential pain we're contemplating here, the one sacrifice nobody seems willing to broach is John Boehner having to lose his Speakership and go be a lobbyist. Why is that? Wouldn't he love to be a still-powerful and plugged-in extremely rich guy who gets to play even more golf?

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posted in: jonathan chait, eric cantor, ezra klein, john boehner, house

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