Now that the magic coin is no longer on the table, Politico is kicking off the next stage of the debt ceiling fight with a report that House Republicans are "seriously entertaining dramatic steps," including letting the government default or shutting it down altogether. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers even went on the record with the shutdown threat, saying "I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we're serious." Republicans will continue to hold both options over the head of the country—particularly the shutdown option—unless they can get the president to commit to serious spending cuts in this year's budget.
One of the underlying premises of the platinum coin kerfuffle was that it may be a silly idea, but that's just how you behave when negotiating with crazy people. So the purpose of this Politico story seems to be a reminder from the House Republicans that they are indeed, still crazy. The message is that the White House (or Ben Bernanke, at least) may have taken its most extreme options off the table, but the GOP hasn't, so don't get too comfortable.
Politico also pushes the ongoing meme that the House leadership are not the crazy ones—it's the rank-and-file Tea Party sympathizers who can't be reasoned with. You see, John Boehner understands that both of those action would be bad for the U.S. and the economy, but he's not sure he can control his friends ... if you get the drift. It's a classic "good cop/loose cannon cop" scenario.
So it is purely a negotiating ploy, or are they legitimately crazy? Is the President willing to call their bluff and find out? No one seems to have any idea what either side is truly capable of, which is exactly how the negotiators want it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.