It’s true that Boehner insists above that Republicans won’t back down from the demand that spending get cut by the same amount as the debt ceiling rises. But all that really means is that they will use the size of the debt ceiling hike as a metric to set the amount of their spending cut demand — not that the threat of default will be used to extract those cuts. Remember, GOP leaders well know that if they do that, the entire business community will join with Obama and Democrats to tell them to back off or take the blame for cratering the economy, leaving Republicans further isolated. So Boehner is letting it be known that Republicans don’t see the debt ceiling as their primary leverage point in the battle to come.
Boehner does this by threatening to only agree to “monthly” debt ceiling hikes. But this should be read, if anything, as a sign of weakness. It’s essentially a concession that the debt limit has to be raised; Boehner is merely threatening to drag his feet as he allows the inevitable to happen. But it’s just nonsense. The business community is not going to go for such a course of action, to put it mildly. And it risks dragging the country through monthly threats of default, a terrible thing to inflict on the American people.
Ultimately, what this highlights is the utter incoherence of the GOP position on the debt ceiling. Republican leaders know they have to raise the debt limit — they know the threat not to do this isn’t credible, and they need to signal to the business community that they don’t view this option seriously — yet they want to continue to use it as leverage to get what they want, anyway. Hence Boehner’s above dance. And Boehner isn’t the only one: On Face the Nation yesterday, when Mitch McConnell was asked directly whether Republicans would really withhold support for a debt ceiling hike if it weren’t paid for by spending cuts of equivalent size, he repeatedly refused to answer.
Boehner’s and McConnell’s equivocations will only embolden the White House and Democrats to stick with their strategy of refusing to negotiate over the debt ceiling, and treating the Republicans’ refusal to commit to raising it up front as their problem, and their problem only.
It sure sounds like Boehner and McConnell are hedging to me. If they are,then that means any more “offers” from the Democrats to make a “big deal” are offers the Democrats want to make, not ones they have to make.