Republicans' 40 Days in the Desert

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Members of the 113th Congress, many accompanied by family members, take the oath of office in the House of Representatives.

There’s no way to spin the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis as anything other than ridiculous, but it’s easy to understand the mentality that led the GOP to hold the country hostage. Republicans had just won a massive victory in the House of Representatives and conservatives felt validated; the GOP majority was built with candidates who didn’t shy away from the right. Moreover—to the recently elected representatives—the public had sent them to Washington to cut spending, and the debt ceiling was a perfect opportunity to do just that.

There’s much less clarity in the current situation. President Obama won re-election by a solid margin, taking 51 percent of the popular vote and 65 million votes overall. Democrats expanded their majority in the Senate, and managed to make a little headway in the House. For as much as it disappointed liberals, the fiscal-cliff deal was a sign of the new times: It’s hard to imagine any House Republicans voting for a tax increase on the wealthy in 2011.

Unfortunately, the 2012 elections didn’t disrupt Republicans enough to push them away from the debt ceiling as a negotiating tool. The Washington Post, for example, reports that at the same time GOP leaders are urging ordinary lawmakers to keep ranks—John Boehner told House Republicans to “hold the line”—more cautious legislators are whether its worth doing this in the first place:

Rep. Billy Long, a Missouri Republican who first won election in the 2010 tea party wave, voted in favor of the 2011 debt-limit deal in part because “no one knows the ramifications of not passing a debt ceiling increase and this plan prevents us from finding out,” according to a statement he released at the time.

In an interview Friday, Long lamented that the only way Congress seems to do business is in eleventh-hour deals and he balked at the notion of shutting down the government.

It’s important not to overstate the amount of dissent here—key Republicans in both chambers of Congress have endorsed using the debt ceiling as a way to force spending cuts. Nonetheless, it’s fair to say that the self-assured Republican Party of just two years ago has been replaced with something a little more gun shy. Indeed, given the administration’s refusal to cut a deal on the debt ceiling—and the obvious necessity of raising it—there’s a (small) chance that, when push comes to shove, Republicans will back down from their call for spending cuts, and just raise the ceiling.

It should be said that if there’s been an attitude change among congressional Republicans, it’s almost certainly a reflection of soul searching within the party. Thanks to the Bush administration, millions of Americans now associate the GOP with intolerance, incompetence, and warmongering. They’ve lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, and they’re losing by huge margins among young people, women, and non-whites.

The same divisions in congressional strategy—between hard-liners who would make brinksmanship a normal part of goverance, and realists who understand that not everything can be a standoff—are present in the push for reform. One side wants the GOP to craft an agenda that’s more friendly to the interests of Latinos, women, and middle-class families; the other thinks that a more conservative agenda will win the day.

The debt ceiling fight—or rather, whether there is a debt ceilng fight at all—will give us a sign of who is winning this battle. The last debt limit battle wrecked havoc on the GOP’s approval with the public, and was a huge force in pushing many Americans from the party and its approach to politics. Which is to say that any attempt at reform must include a repudiation of those tactics. If that doesn’t happen, and Republicans threaten global recession again, then we can safely predict a nice period in the wilderness for the GOP.


The last debt limit battle wrecked havoc


Jamelle is such a stooge.....

"...millions of Americans now associate the GOP with intolerance, incompetence, and warmongering."

Of course Jamelle, there ARE millions of low information, slow thought process people out there. You are one of them. Point in case: "One side wants the GOP to craft an agenda that’s more friendly to the interests of Latinos, women, and middle-class families; the other thinks that a more conservative agenda will win the day"

Your serious failure of logic (in this case) is that the two concepts are incompatible. One can EASIILY present a more conservative case that is friendly to the interests of Latinos, women, and middle-class families, as well as young voters. In fact, we already have presented it but too many people did not believe the truth. They began to see the light in the last few days when they realized that Obama is in fact taxing everyone more - not just the rich.

If they are unhappy now, wait until the next round of lay-offs begin as employers start looking for ways to maintain their margin in perspective of the new taxes and Obamacare costs. The next four years will prove everything that Republicans have been saying for the last 4 and you won't be able to pretend its not Obama's fault anymore.

There will not be a debt ceiling fight. There will be a sequestration-fix fight. There will be a continuing resolution fight. There may be a shut down of the government. But there will be no debt ceiling fight.

I'm ready for another government shutdown. Since the Dems seem unable to realize that "spending" is one big huge problem. Lets just shut it all down for awhile. And please, I know that spending has been a HUGE problem on both sides, but we borrow 40 cents on every dollar for spending, something has to give. No congress people offer to give up their salaries or perks..why should the rest of us average taxpayers give anything for more wasteful spending???? Anyway, the supposed debt default is just that..."supposed" is a scare tactic by the administration. Enough money comes in all the time for the government to pay on the debt. Leave the debt ceiling will only give congress more money to waste. Leave it where it is, and they will be forced to find cuts...and they are all over the place with all the pies this government has its fingers in. Maybe a real budget might help???????

Jamelle, your illiteracy is breathtaking, and you don't even know it. I lost count of all of the grammatical errors, errors in syntax, poor sentence constructs, complete and utter non-sequiters, and examples of outright delusional and shallow reasoning after the third paragraph. You, sir, are a perfefct example of an Obama voter: low intelligence, intellectually lazy, unable to formulate any original ideas, unable to say anything except what you can parrot back from your years of indoctrination in black liberation theology and marxist 'social theory' by loser professors. Reading anything you write is truly a waste of time and effort. You're a joke.

Non sequitur. No dash. Latin is a privilege, not a right. This, by the way, would be the definition of irony; your misspelling a fine example of res ipsa loquitur.

Dick, I'm afraid you are neither intelligent nor erudite enough to be commenting from such a lofty post. I recommend you go back to grammar school and try, try again.

This from a guy who can't even spell Johnny.

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(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)