Dysfunctional Republicans spotlight Capitol Hill chaos

House Republican leaders hold a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday to discuss the debt crisis showdown. From left are, Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Demoralized House Republicans are trying for a third straight day to pass a debt-ceiling bill that has almost no chance of surviving the Senate, even as the clock ticks closer to next week’s deadline for avoiding a potentially calamitous government default.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, suffered a stinging setback Thursday when, for a second consecutive day, he had to postpone a vote on his proposal to extend the nation’s borrowing authority while cutting federal spending by nearly $1 trillion.

“Obviously, we didn’t have the votes,” Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., said after Boehner and the GOP leadership had spent hours trying to corral the support of rebellious conservatives.

Republicans will try again Friday. If they continue to fail, then President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats will have extensive leverage to shape a bill to their liking and practically dare the House to reject it and send the nation into default.

If, however, Republicans can get Boehner’s version through the House, a rapid and complex set of choices will determine whether and how a debt crisis can be averted. House Republicans will be under tremendous pressure to pass something, even if they have to make it so appealing to their right wing that the nation’s independents and centrists will laugh it off. As Thursday’s events proved, nothing is guaranteed.

The main area of dispute between the two parties is how to encourage or guarantee big spending cuts in the future without rekindling a fiercely divisive debt-ceiling debate such as the one now raging.

Interviews with well-placed insiders suggest the following road map, assuming Boehner can get his bill out of the House:

The Democratic-controlled Senate would kill it quickly. The focus then would fall on the Senate’s two leaders, Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada and Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. They must decide whether they can reach a compromise that can pass the Senate — where a united GOP can kill bills with filibusters — and then pass the House and be signed by Obama. The White House would be integral to such talks.

Republican officials say McConnell could hold a strong hand, despite the House’s shaky performance. He could argue that the House finally passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling, while the Senate has done nothing but kill that bill. If Tuesday’s deadline passes with no resolution, Republicans say, voters will blame Democrats.

Under this thinking, the Senate would pass a measure similar to the House bill, perhaps with minor changes to save face and give political cover to Democrats who vote for it. The House would quickly concur, with numerous Democrats and all but the most conservative Republicans voting aye. Obama would have no choice but to sign it.

Democrats say the opposite is true. Obama has persuasively argued in recent weeks that Republicans are unreasonably demanding, they say.

Democrats control the Senate and White House. If Republicans insist that a partisan, House-passed bill is the only vehicle, then public anger will fall on them, this thinking goes.

The biggest sticking point is the House bill’s call for congressional votes to raise the debt ceiling, in two stages, before the 2012 elections.

A $900 billion debt-limit hike would come first, coupled with $917 billion in spending cuts over 10 years. A second vote, late this year or sometime next year, would allow another $1.6 trillion in borrowing power, provided that Congress and the president have agreed to another round of spending cuts of that amount or more.

Obama has consistently rejected this condition. He says it would hurt the economy and touch off another ferocious political fight over the debt ceiling, which Congress previously raised with little fuss year after year. Global markets and investors would not be reassured by such a drawn-out, uncertain scenario, he says.

The White House says the prospect of an economically devastating default must not be used as the “trigger” to force Congress to cut the deficit. Such triggers would take effect automatically if Congress did not act on a prescribed deficit-reduction package.

Those could include deep cuts in programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, which would be painful to Democrats, and tax increases that Republicans would be loath to accept. But Republicans believe the threat of default is a much stronger incentive to shrink the deficit.

Presidential adviser David Plouffe told MSNBC on Thursday that the Republican House bill would “have this whole debt ceiling spectacle, three-ring circus … repeated again a few months from now, over the holidays. You know, the debt ceiling debate would ruin Christmas.”

If the House sends Boehner’s bill to the Senate, a crucial point in the end-game scenario will come when McConnell decides whether to insist on the House proposal to raise the debt ceiling in two steps, both tied to large mandatory spending cuts. If he does, then Reid and Obama will have to decide whether to swallow the demand or let the impasse last beyond Tuesday, and blame McConnell.

Or, McConnell could yield. He could help pass a Senate bill that lets the second debt-ceiling hike take place more easily, with an incentive mechanism for spending cuts that stops short of a mandate.

That would hand a tough choice to Boehner. His tea party conservatives would howl in protest. It’s possible that 100 or more of his 240 House Republicans would vote against such a Senate-passed bill.

The measure presumably would pass anyway, with ample Democratic votes. But Boehner’s hold on the speakership could be weakened.

Of course, little or none of this might transpire if the House can’t figure out how to pass a bill. In that case, Obama would seem to hold almost all the cards.

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Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Jim Kuhnhenn and Ben Feller contributed to this report.

10 Responses to "Dysfunctional Republicans spotlight Capitol Hill chaos"

  1. bmclellan  July 29, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Even if both houses come together and lob meaningful projectiles at the problem it’s only going to deepen the bomb crater we are sitting in because lobbyists / cash dictate policy and their aim never wavers.

    Think of it as planned parenthood, we the people will be forced to act fiscally responsible with the dregs of what they leave us, until it too is stolen.
    They on the other hand will continue to surreptitiously profit from abortion while handing out condoms riddled with holes…Hack2e..

  2. griff  July 29, 2011 at 9:51 am

    All of Washington is dysfunctional, save for a few.

    http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=327389

  3. Sandune  July 29, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    I remember when this situation was very similar to when Gingrich was speaker and was leading a very conservative Republican House. He got the old Republicans to walk through the new ones to understand when to fold a losing hand. Today we have a new brand of Republican who has one agenda and that is to wipe out Obama’s chance of reelection. To bring down the government would simply be an added perk. These Tea Party members want to destroy the government as we know it and build a new one under the guidance of the Christian Right.

    I remember when the Bush Administration wrote up the additional Prescription Drug legislation without funding and while he was visiting Europe the House did not pass the bill. Bush flew home and began to call every member of the Republican House until he found his one single vote that added this expense. This is the expense that put Medicare over the hill. The vote that caved into Bush’s demands came from Arizona. His name is Trent Frank and he is still in the House.

    A true Conservative would have never caved into a bill that was not as yet financed. He was reelected every 2 years because he followed his hero Bush’s request.

    What the hell is the matter with the voters? Don’t they even know what their House Members are doing? The only reason Frank has been reelected is his religious right background. I guess in Arizona that is good enough. I realized then that the churches are running the House and Senate and that is because the voters believe America is a Christian Nation.

    I don’t want to live in a Christian Nation as they respect no authority other than their church leaders. The Constitution is nothing but a piece of paper that can be used only when necessary.

    The caliber of people who join the Tea Party are in a religious trance and will follow people like Ryan, Cantor, Palin, and Bachman. They’ve got it in the bag as there is no Republican who can get a vote who has not signed the anti Abortion Pledge handed out by the Tea Party members.

    When Bush pressure the Prescription Drug bill, he must have known it blow up our debt and keep increasing the debt until somebody had the balls to repeal it. I have no doubt that President George W. Bush has been behind this destruction of the Federal Government and the SOB will watch it fall. Whether he ever knew the consequences of his actions doesn’t matter any more. He is walking away free of guilt just as he is free from the responsibility of as war in Iraq.

    So let’s say we do destroy Obama and a Republican takes the White House. What action can be taken to control this ugly agenda? Had we stopped the Prescription Drug bill, we could have easily brought the voters together. But we didn’t. I couldn’t get an answer to a post I wrote about Trent Frank. It’s too late now.

    The GOP is on a winning streak and even if Obama wins in the next election, there will be no house and senate for him to work with. Can we even work as a team to stop the Tea Party from being reelected in 2012?

    We are losing members here at CHB so there will be no body to work with. I’m tired of losing these damn elections when the cat is out of the bag and the Christian agenda is riding high in the house and senate. Maybe all of you here can live under the new Amendments banning a new list of sins. Maybe you will end up finding the Bachmann’s humorous people who like to dance.

    Abortion is not the real problem…..the problem comes when we hand the federal government laws prohibiting abortions or anything for that matter. The war on Drugs failed but not for trying to use the Homeland Security Department to stop them. Do you want your wives xrayed at the airport to check for an abortion? Maybe you do. Maybe I’m wrong about CHB. Maybe you need a God to watch everything you do and then allow the federal government to react.

    I walked out of the GOP when Bush 43 was elected and very nearly moved to another country. You see, I’ve read what the churches can do to entire nations. I’ve seen people rounded up with their property removed and literally thrown away. I’ve read all the stories of how the Mormons cleared land for their own use leaving bodies buried in the name of Jesus Christ. We have Mormon candidates running and everyone of them look like nice American candidates.

    I don’t understand why we need federal laws dominating our family and friends.

    • Danny Adams  July 29, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      >>These Tea Party members want to destroy the government as we know it and build a new one under the guidance of the Christian Right. <<

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who's started thinking this; I've seen many others express the same belief. It struck me as too implausible at first, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I do know quite a lot of people in this area, Tea Party or no, who want the American government to crumble to rebuild a religious society based on their definition of religion. It seems to go hand in hand with their apocalyptic beliefs.

      However, in the case of a default, most of these folks are the ones who will be among the first and worst to suffer.

      • b mcclellan  July 29, 2011 at 5:05 pm

        Greedy lemmings subvert a Godly message that clearly instructs we must
        rely on a manifesto of self will and conscience, whilst his non intervention in the pettiness of mans affairs warns of the threat of misinterpretation of his word, as clear as the toll of a bell.

        To wit,
        singularity will enable you to be the keeper of your soul, and your brethren his own as he sees fit, without interference.
        Allegiance to loving kindness, nothing more, nothing less.

        It’s not the Christians we need worry about but those spouting like overflowing founts of piety the principles of mass convergence leading over the cliffs to war upon one another.Laikeze…

  4. Fivebyfives  July 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    One aspect of this whole “debate” is the notion that business people have to have “confidence.” So, in order to alleviate the anxiety of business the size and scope of the government must shrink dramatically. Okay, but how does this stack up against the claims that business is full of risk takers, of men and women of consequence who are willing to stick their necks out, etc.

    I had a friend who flew as a rear seater on F-14′s for over 12 years. He explained to me how you get used to carrier landings, with those at night always creating a high pucker factor.

    It makes me wonder how many of the business elites would have the fortitude to be shot off the deck of a carrier, with no guarantees that they’d be coming back. An old Air Force saying goes: “The only time an aircraft has too much fuel is when it’s on fire.” This is a rather casual assessment of physical danger. Yet it also points out that there are many people willing to risk their lives daily……without the “confidence” demanded by those risking balance sheets.

    A short history of the US could be put this way: We were doing okay but we had to “unfetter” the banks. We goofed with the S&L’s in the 80′s but hey, things will get better with “confidence.” So, get rid of Glass-Steagal and watch the money grow. For a few.

    The casino exploded, and now all those brave lionhearts of finance demand more “confidence” and this time it means gutting the social contract between government and the people.

    The government is no longer “the people.” The government is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America and exists soley to inspire “confidence” among the 1st Class passengers of the Titanic. Why would the elite want to waste government funds on the Untouchable Class?

  5. Rick  July 29, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    With 50% not paying taxes everyone should have skin in this game. The rich – who I take it are those making over 250K – are an easy target to demonize. Seems like all they do is manage to be employed, be successful and pay a boat load of taxes. Bush tax cuts? To me you reward hard work and don’t punish it.

    Now those 50% should pay something. Just a tid bit to be part of the game. To have some degree of ownership. You can actually get all your taxes back and a bonus – talk about loopholes.

    Now the bad guys in this mess are that merry band of Republicans who were elected to do exactly what they are doing. and most appear to have strong Tea Party ties. I may not agree with them on all points but is rare indeed when some pol actually follows through despite arm twisting my the deal makers.

    So without the debt being raised we continue to be an nation of enablers to pols who can’t get their collective shyte together? Maybe it is time to see if this is a fiscal version of Y2K?

  6. keith  July 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Sandune wrote: “These Tea Party members want to destroy the government as we know it and build a new one under the guidance of the Christian Right.”

    Indeed, the world was there once before. They called it the “Dark Ages”.

  7. Carl Nemo  July 30, 2011 at 3:22 am

    The photo supplied with this article demonstrates their collective mindset. Seemingly this debt limitation issue is one big laugh to these dim-witted, self-aggrandizing clowns.

    They’re overpaid along with their deluxe ‘job’ perks. They have no worries; in fact they’ll still get paid while the people they supposedly represent suffer.

    Behold the face of parasitic, crimpol scum…believe it…! : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  8. Danny Adams  July 30, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Rick wrote: >>Now those 50% should pay something. Just a tid bit to be part of the game. To have some degree of ownership. You can actually get all your taxes back and a bonus – talk about loopholes.<<

    This isn't aimed at you, Rick, but talking heads: I've been wondering about this for the last few days. More specifically, why is it that the same talking heads who are flailing this information about are the same ones who are warning their listeners that Obama wants to raise taxes?

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