The Grand Bargain, Revisited

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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21 Responses

  1. Avatar Morat20 says:

    It’s okay. Boehner rejected it and moved the goalposts again.

    Going over the ‘cliff’ (more of a mild downhill slope) is gonna be a slow, awkward, hilariously sad ride.

    The upcoming debt limit debate — which is what I’m pretty sure the House backbenchers have decided to wait on before agreeing to anything — is going to be the fun time.Report

    • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to Morat20 says:

      The upcoming debt limit debate — which is what I’m pretty sure the House backbenchers have decided to wait on before agreeing to anything…

      I think you’re right on this. From what I’ve read they by-and-large seem to believe that went well last summer and they can do it again, this time with even more success. Sadly, it’s starting to feel like we need to have this debt-limit clusterfuck before anything else will happen.Report

      • I anticipate a large non-event, except for the screaming of the extreme Republicans. Geithner will be gone and the new Secretary will do what they are told to do. I can already hear Obama’s address to the nation, explaining that Congress has saddled him with conflicting laws and no freedom to adjust spending or taxes, so in the interest of doing the least damage, we’ll just continue selling Treasuries and paying our bills. Played properly, it’s the adult(s) versus the noisy children, doing the adult thing.Report

        • I wouldn’t ever describe a constitutional crisis (which is what O unilaterally raising the ceiling would be) as a non-event. I wouldn’t expect the courts or public opinion to be against Obama on this, but I think it’ll be pretty turbulent. And impeachment proceedings would begin immediately, of course.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Elias Isquith says:

            I agree — it’s turbelent, distressing, a true Constitutional Crisis and deeply disturbing to anyone who cares about good government, conservative or liberal, Democrat, Republican, or neither.

            On the other hand, I think it’s going to be a major non-event. Obama’s been very cagey with what he was advised on the Constitutional issues, and he’s got a number of ways around it ranging from the stupid-but-true (platinum coin) to the common-sensical (“Faced with two conflicting Congressional mandates, I go with the most recently passed — ie, the latest budget) to the Constitutional (14th Amendment, right?), so I suspect he’ll let the GOP run the government right up to the bring to show they’re seriously gonna do it…

            And then push one of the various solutions and dare anyone to sue him. And he can cloak himself, quite believably, in the mantle of “I did not wish to provoke a Constitutional Crisis, so I waited until the last moment before acting as I had to, hoping that Congress would come to it’s senses”.

            I swear, though, the whole Debt Ceiling thing just irritates me. I get mad at everyone, from the morons on facebook to the morons on TV. Obama shouldn’t even be involved — it’s the power of the purse, where Congress’ power is at it’s peak.

            The executive branch — Treasury, basically — is just a middle-man, doing Congress’ will. Congress says what to spend and where, Treasury does so. If Congress spends more than it gets, Treasury borrows. Neither Obama nor the Treasury department have ANY control over amounts!Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Morat20 says:

              Obama shouldn’t even be involved — it’s the power of the purse, where Congress’ power is at it’s peak.

              In my ideal U.S., I so agree with you. But that ship sailed long before either of us was born, with the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, one of the great steps forward in shifting the presidency to the center of the American political system, displacing Congress as the source of legislative energy.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

                Doesn’t matter. Congress controls the purse.

                And these stupid yahoos voted for spending that WOULD, no ifs ands or buts, require an increase in borrowing. And when that happens, they want to act shocked, appalled, and point fingers? Yeah, if they jsut wanted to use it for the usual kabuki “Let us take this time to express how much it sucks that, strangely, we keep voting for deficits year after year” theater, that’s one thing.

                But these idjits? They want to default and they act like the budget somehow sprung forth from the President’s brow, into law, rather than something they themselves VOTED FOR.

                Screw them. Screw them hard. They don’t belong in government. They don’t belong NEAR government. They shouldn’t be allowed access to anything resembling authority anywhere.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Morat20 says:

              Is there any doubt as to which way the crisis would be decided? I asked before but none of the lawyers commented on it. Budgeting is defined constitutionally, this debt limit ceiling is a legislative artifact. Shouldn’t the budgeting trump it easily?Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to North says:

                It’s kinda knotty, since Congress has passed two mutually contradictory laws and — if they don’t change one (the debt ceiling, historically) puts the President in the position of having to violate properly passed legislation one way or the other. Can’t split the baby.

                I think there’s a straight up “The Debt Ceiling is Unconstitutional because it is — in this case — making the validity of the US debt questionable, since we can no longer roll over debt which means we can’t pay it” argument.

                There’s also a “When Congress passes two laws that conflict, the most recent one is given precedence even if Congress didn’t intend to partially repeal the old one”.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Elias Isquith says:

            I wouldn’t ever describe a constitutional crisis (which is what O unilaterally raising the ceiling would be) as a non-event.

            Is it still possible for unilateral executive action to precipitate a true constitutional crisis? Or only a sort of constitutional crisis theater in which each side obligingly plays its dumbshow of critique and defense, while in reality we all accept that the Constitution places no practical limits on the unitary executive?Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Elias Isquith says:

            The idiots in the House have been looking for an excuse to impeach him. Ignoring the debt limit would be perfect.Report

            • I think “idiots” would be appropriate in this case. I don’t see any way that the Republicans score a political win with enough of the voters if they pursue impeachment. Seriously, guys — are you trying to lose the House in 2014? I’ve said before that I’m a lousy political strategist, but the Republicans appear to be presenting Obama with an opportunity to be patient and start 2015 with a small majority in the House, a filibuster-reformed Senate, and two years to establish whatever he wants his legacy to be.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Cain says:

                I think gerrymandering, and the general tendency for president’s party to lose House seats in midterm elections, make a Demo House majority in 2015 surpassingly unlikely, no matter what Republicans do (up to and including snuff orgies in the floor of the House).Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

                55/45 districts are surprisingly easy to lose, if you piss off people ENOUGH. It happened in 2006, after all. (granted that was 6 years off gerrymander-standard, not four, but… I expect more population drift this decade, with the “recession”)Report

        • Avatar Tel in reply to Michael Cain says:

          … so in the interest of doing the least damage, we’ll just continue selling Treasuries and paying our bills. Played properly, it’s the adult(s) versus the noisy children, doing the adult thing.

          Except that selling treasuries requires someone to want to buy treasuries. If you are happy to ignore the fact that most of the buying is really just the Fed, then yeah, no problem. Politically, most people are happy with this, for the time being. I’m curious how long it can go for.Report

  2. Avatar North says:

    Yeah one thing that can’t be emphasized enough is how enormously Obama dislikes confrontation and uncertainty. He was pretty much the same way when he was first elected. 2012 demonstrated that once you force him into a corner he’ll fight like hell (and that he runs an excellent campaign team) but if you give him an out Obama will pay and pay even a steep price to avoid confrontation.

    Whether that’s prudence, bipartisanship or cowardice really depends on your mood and your perspective.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to North says:

      A strange bit of idealism, probably due to his educational background. I have no doubt he sees government as a negotiation between parties, to move forward for the common good of the country.

      The reality of the modern GOP is, well, probably more historically normal than the 80s were (with bipartisanship being the norm, insofar as Southern Democrats Who Weren’t Yet Republicans voting with Republicans a lot for pretty obvious demographic reasons), it doesn’t fit with the ideal of the Constitution.

      Nor does it probably fit with the sort of President he wants to be. It’s a foolish idealism, but he seems pretty pragmatic in areas wherein he doesn’t share authority — so I suppose as flaws go, it could be far worse. Trusting your fellow Americans in Congress to be working toward the good of America isn’t the worst flaw in a President.Report

  3. Avatar Tel says:

    Strategically, the Republicans should give Obama whatever he wants with a minimal show of resistance for appearance sake. The election is over, none of the options are good options, so someone needs to take responsibility just to end the blame game.

    FWIW I doubt Obama and the Democrats can turn things around in four years, but they deserve their chance to try.Report

  4. Avatar zic says:

    I don’t think a bargain is possible for one reason alone: it means GOP members of the House have to agree to a tax hike. They won’t go there. If they wait until Jan., the current tax cuts expire without their breaking a promise, and they can give new tax cuts, can campaign on those new tax cuts.

    Debt ceiling, sequester, all else? I just don’t think it matters as much as their promise to Grover. That promise to a group that limits their ability to actually govern free of outside restrictions is the real problem.Report

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