The more House Speaker John Boehner talks about the budget and debt ceiling showdown, the less the American public understand how the differences with President Obama get resolved without damaging the economy.
Boehner met Thursday morning with GOP congressional leaders, emerging from the meeting with a stiffened spine. The Ohio Republican betrayed no interest in compromising with President Obama—and did not retreat from demands that the 2010 Affordable Care Act be delayed, or even defunded.
Driven by dozens of conservative GOP representatives, the House passed on a largely party line vote last Friday a temporary spending measure that keeps the government open through Dec. 15. But that same bill would also defund Obamacare.
With the Democratic majority Senate poised this week to amend that measure so that Obamacare is preserved, Boehner was asked if the Republican House could support the changed bill and avoid a shutdown.
“I do not see that happening,” Boehner said. Loose translation: Highly unlikely. But the speaker did little to publicly outline what the alternatives would be.
“We have no interest in seeing the government shutdown, but we’ve got to address the spending problems that we have in this town,” he said. “There will be options available to us. There is not going to be any speculation about what we’re going to do or not do until the Senate passes their bill.”
Boehner then added that he does not “expect” a government shutdown when the next fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.
So, what does this all mean?
His answers hint that House Republicans could pass a weeklong continuing resolution to keep the government open for a few more days, as reported by The National Review.
But they also suggest that the impasse might be impossible to overcome. House Republicans have a wish list of demands in return for voting to lift the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling by Oct. 17, or else the country could soon default on many of its obligations and unleash havoc across the entire economy. A week-long continuing resolution means that the budget and the debt ceiling battles would converge into one huge fight.
All of this matters because the demand from the GOP goes from defunding Obamacare to delaying the program for a year, additional spending cuts, trim federal regulations, put together a framework for tax reform, and approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Essentially, Republicans are asking Obama to implement their entire agenda. This is a much bigger ask—and the president has until this point refused to negotiate.
GOP lawmakers hope to leverage Obama’s refusal to sit at the bargaining table. Their new hot poll—cited after the leadership meeting—is that 61 percent of Americans say it is correct to ask for spending cuts in return for a debt ceiling hike.
Unlike the 2011 fight where Obama could portray Republicans as being unreasonable, the GOP is flipping the script this time.
“Now, the president says, ‘I’m not going to negotiate,’” Boehner said. “Well, I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way.”