The U.S. government narrowly avoided being shut down by recalcitrant lawmakers last week, but the real fight is yet to come. Congress must approve a $1 trillion increase in the federal debt ceiling within the next five weeks, or face the prospect of a U.S. government default. House Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner, are demanding deep spending cuts in exchange for their support — but some doubt whether the GOP will follow through, given the extraordinarily high stakes. Would the GOP really vote against raising the federal debt limit?
Yes. The Republicans are capable of anything: Another week, another hostage strategy, says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. And yes, the stakes are "significantly higher" in this fight. But that doesn't mean the GOP won't be willing to use their vote as a bargaining chip. "Indeed, they've been rather shameless about it." Economists, business leaders, and government officials have all told the GOP to "reject the political games and do what's right." So far, they've said no. What makes you think they'll comply now?
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No. The GOP is in a losing position: The Republicans know deep down they can't win this one, says Nate Silver at The New York Times, which is why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is privately "discouraging his colleagues from filibustering a vote." And Boehner himself has warned of a "financial disaster" if the debt limit hike doesn't pass. "That doesn't sound like much of a negotiating position" to me. A White House "willing to play hardball" could get whatever it wants on this one.
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If only Obama had the guts to call the GOP's bluff: This White House has shown it isn't willing to play hardball, says Jonathan Chait at The New Republic. In fact, in every budget fight so far, it has willingly handed the GOP concession after concession. But Obama has the upper hand here. "He can expose, and force Republicans to defend, their position." If the GOP wants to take hostages, Obama should "announce that he is finished paying ransom."
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And yet, the battle will be waged on the GOP's terms: Boehner will "rely on the same playbook" as he did on the budget fight, says Alex Altman at TIME. That is, refusing any reasonable deal on the basis that he'll be unable to sell it to congressional "hard-liners" like Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann. Face it: Democrats are "fighting the debt-limit brawl on Republican terms." By the time the vote comes, the GOP will already have won.
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