Showdown, part 27

There is yet another partisan showdown looming this Congress. And that, according to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), is not a bad thing. 

In a speech Tuesday, the Speaker noted that Congress will have to grapple with another debt-ceiling increase request from the Obama administration. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Boehner vowed to insist on cuts and reforms greater than the unspecified debt hike. He added, “This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our fiscal imbalance.”

While many on and off Capitol Hill are wringing their hands over the battle, Boehner said he is not one of them.

“We shouldn’t dread the debt limit. We should welcome it. It’s an action-forcing event in a town that has become infamous for inaction.”

Congressional Republicans clashed with President Obama last year on the debt ceiling, government spending and the payroll tax extension.

There was nearly a government shutdown, it was feared by some that the nation might not pay its bills on time and payroll taxes were in serious jeopardy of increasing on Jan. 1, 2012.

But none of that happened, as the parties struck deals at the eleventh hour. 

One of those agreements called for the creation of a bipartisan supercommittee, which predictably failed to strike a grand bargain on taxes and entitlement spending. Soon after the supercommittee was born, the U.S. credit rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s. 

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, responding to news of Boehner’s remarks, warned the Speaker not to hold the debt limit hostage as, according to his accusers, he did last summer.

White House press secretary Jay Carney echoed that point, saying, “We can’t engage in the kind of political brinksmanship Republicans engaged in last year.”

Tuesday’s back-and-forth between Boehner and administration officials was not about policymaking. At least not yet. 

It was about leverage. Both sides are digging in but know they will have to compromise later on.

The biggest factor in the leverage game will be the election. But the election might leave the political landscape and the wishes of the electorate unclear.

For example, if Obama wins a second term while Republicans hold the House and win the Senate, both sides will claim victory. 

The last three elections, those of 2006, 2008 and 2010, have been wave elections, with Democrats dominating in the first two but getting shellacked in the last. There is little chance of a wave election in 2012.

Should Nov. 6 produce some type of debatable draw, getting a grand-bargain deal on taxes, entitlement spending and the debt deal will be that much more elusive.