Excitement Mounts As Debt Limit Hostage List Narrows

No degree of mockery, it appears, will interfere with the excitement conservatives are undergoing as their congressional representatives debate which demand they will briefly make in connection with a debt limit increase they’ve already conceded will happen. According to Robert Costa, the bidding is down to just two empty gestures! Which will it be in the end?

Several House members told The Washington Post on Monday that Republican leaders have narrowed their list of possible debt-limit strategies to two options: trading a one-year extension for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, or trading a one-year extension for repeal of a provision of the Affordable Care Act.

Both plans, which were first discussed last week at the House GOP’s annual retreat in Cambridge, Md., will be debated further Tuesday morning, when House Republicans meet at the Capitol. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) is said to be open to either approach, as long as it can win heavy GOP support.

Now get this:

A clean debt-limit extension is not yet on the GOP’s radar, though Boehner has said he would avoid default.

A “clean” bill made not be on the “radar,” but it’s on the table, since it’s (a) what happened last fall, and (b) what every single Democrat, including the one in the White House, is again demanding.

I’m not sure why it matters which debt limit strategy congressional Republicans pursue until they stop pursuing any strategy other than surrender. Maybe there is some major betting action over it. Perhaps some conservatives think an American public still struggling to understand the basic structure of the Affordable Care Act is going to be galvanized by discussion of “risk corridors.” I just don’t know. But the GOP congressional leadership is beginning to run its own risk that conservative activists will forget this is all supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the apocalypse, not the real thing.

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.