The Republican Party has earned such a reputation for stubbornness that the kind of extralegal presidential powers George W. Bush used to handle terrorists are now popping up in discussions of Barack Obama's budget negotiations with Congress. But Republicans have not decided to block all things forever. "No" has its limits.
To give a sense of just how stuck Washington is these days, on Friday a White House reporter asked President Obama why he didn't just kidnap Mitch McConnell and John Boehner: "Couldn't you just have them down here and refuse to let them leave the room until you have a deal?" Obama shrugged, "I am not a dictator… I can't have Secret Service block the doorway, right?"
But not all crises are manufactured equally. In a series of statements, Republicans have made clear that not all budget deadlines will be turned into crises. Already, they've reconsidered several showdowns with Obama they were previously salivating over. So, the Secret Service still might not be needed to make a deal.
Bush tax cuts: Fight (in December), Cave (in January). During the fiscal cliff negotiations, House Republicans initially wanted to fight over the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. McConnell and Joe Biden eventually cut a deal to make them permanent for people making less than $400,000 a year.
Debt Limit I: Cave. In early January, Republicans wanted another fight over the debt ceiling ("We Republicans need to be willing to tolerate a temporary, partial government shutdown," Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey said. "We absolutely have to have this fight over the debt limit.") By late January they decided that was a political loser and temporarily suspended the debt ceiling.
Sequester: Fight. In early January, Boehner told The Wall Street Journal that the sequester was "as much leverage as we're going to get." Obama was counting on defense hawks to try to stop the automatic spending cuts that went into effect Friday night, but they weren't strong enough within the GOP. "I got that in my back pocket," Boehner said. The House will vote Thursday to give the Defense Department more flexibility to deal with the spending cuts.
Government shutdown: Fight (in January), Cave (now). The GOP will not go Full Newt at the end of the month, when government funding runs out, even though Gingrich himself endorsed it. When asked in January why the GOP would threaten a shutdown when it already had bad poll numbers, Rep. Paul Ryan responded, "We don’t have much to lose, do we?" Texas Sen. John Cornyn wrote at the time, "It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country..." But now the GOP thinks that's a bad idea. The House will vote Thursday to keep the government funded through September 30, The Washington Post reports. "The president this morning agreed that we should not have any talk of a government shutdown," Boehner said Sunday on Meet the Press.
Debt Limit II: Fight. Paul Ryan told The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus that the GOP will fight for spending cuts in exchange for a raise in the debt ceiling this summer. While the debt limit was seen as a political loser earlier, it's "Not this time," Ryan said. Boehner said he remains committed to getting spending cuts equal to the amount that the debt ceiling is raised, which is ultimately unsustainable, even if Obama were to sign Ryan's budget into law. Will that math cause the GOP reconsider this final showdown? It's too soon to tell.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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