The House GOP’s Strange, Hollow “Victory”

So today the House passed their ultra-gimmicky temporary debt limit bill today that threatened not a global economic collapse but a congressional pay suspension, in the pursuit of a demand not for vast reductions in federal domestic spending but for a Senate budget resolution. Enough Democrats voted for the measure that the defection of 33 Republicans from the hell-no-let’s-blow-up-the-economy faction was acceptable.

But conservatives on the fence also got a concession in the way of a public promise that the House GOP’s own budget resolution would balance the federal budget within ten years without new revenues, which will require levels of cuts that could make the 2011-2012 Ryan Budgets look like something out of the playbook of the early Fabian Society (see Greg Sargent’s analysis with help from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities for illustrations).

The other aspect of the internal GOP maneuver is that now the pressure on the House leadership to make the next confrontation over appropriations (the pending sequesters and a soon-to-expire stopgap funding bill) an apocalyptic exercise with a serious government shutdown–always a national crowd-pleaser since Newt Gingrich tried it out in 1995–is enormous.

Even before then, we’ll have the spectacle of the Senate passing a budget resolution with more revenues as well as spending cuts, which will lead House Republicans to shriek that they meant a real budget, which means one that only includes domestic spending cuts (preferably the entitlement “reforms” Republicans are afraid to propose on their own). So nothing will have really been accomplished, other than the sound and fury necessary to obscure the fact that the would-be debt-limit hostage has escaped Congress, perhaps (one can only hope) for good.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.