Pessimism Concerning the House
Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein notes: The problem in a nutshell? House can’t pass jack
The United States Government reached statutory debt limit in May. We’re now a week away from exhausting every way around that, at least according to the Treasury Department. And the House of Representatives has not passed a debt limit extension. They haven’t passed a clean one, and they haven’t passed one with conditions. It seems highly unlikely to me that Speaker Boehner’s plan to raise the debt limit in stages will pass the House. Indeed, after months of wrangling, there still doesn’t seem to be any plan that can pass the House.
So far, the closest they’ve come was in passing their Cut, Cap, and Balance scheme, but that did not include a debt limit increase; it only contained a commitment to do so if, among other things, Congress sent a specific Balanced Budget Amendment to the states. And yet CCB passed by a slim partisan margin, not even getting close — in the GOP-controlled House! — to the two-thirds needed to pass an Amendment and send it on to the states.
This is actually quite important. Many, myself included, have treated Cut, Cap, and Balance as if it contained a provision to raise the debt ceiling. Bernstein is right: it did not. Rather, it contained a means to achieve a vote on that subject, rather than directly addressing it. And, of course, because CCB was never going to pass the Senate (and even if it did, the Balanced Budget Amendment was never going to pass anyway) the notion that CCB represented a legit method to avert the debt ceiling crisis is a bogus one.
The fundamental problem is this:
even if the House constituted the sole branch of government, it’s really not clear that the Republicans who run it could figure out a way to get the debt limit increased.
This is a rather unfortunate place for us to be in at the moment, especially since we basically have a week to solve the problem. And, as Bernstein notes (and as I have in several posts over the last week or so) there are many in the House GOP caucus who either think that not raising the debt limit would be no big deal (e.g., Bachmann) and other who actually think it would be a good thing. This is not a recipe for a solution, to be sure.
The numbers above are from the Bipartisan Policy Center.
It would appear that the markets still think that rationality will prevail and an agreement will be reached. We will find out shortly.
Really, this is not at all an extreme position regarding the House, as we all know that there are members of the GOP caucus who have rejected the Boehner Plan (see here). The notion that the Speaker of the House cannot get his own plan through the House of Representatives as a deadline looms is truly remarkable. Boehner may be the weakest Speaker in recent memory.