Boehner abandons calls for an ‘adult’ moment

BOEHNER ABANDONS CALLS FOR AN ‘ADULT’ MOMENT…. The comments seem to have been largely forgotten, but five months ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) took a fairly responsible line when it came to the debt ceiling. If only he’d kept it.

Two weeks after the massive Republican gains in the midterms, Boehner said he’s well aware of the fact that his chamber would to have to extend the federal debt limit. He noted that he’d already “made it pretty clear” to his own caucus that Republicans are “going to have to deal with it as adults.” Boehner added, “Whether we like it or not, the federal government has obligations and we have obligations on our part.”

In December, he was equally sensible. Boehner said at the time, in reference to his own party, “We’ll have to find a way to help educate members and help people understand the serious problem that would exist if we didn’t do it.”

All of that appears to have gone out the window.

Emboldened by the budget skirmish, Boehner has changed his tune, signaling over the weekend that the debt limit vote the nation needs will be freighted with an array of concessions. “The president says, ‘I want you to send me a clean bill.; Well guess what, Mr. President: Not a chance you’re going to get a clean bill,” Boehner said at a fundraiser in Connecticut Saturday night. “There will not be an increase in the debt limit without something really, really big attached to it.”

In other words, Boehner’s first hostage strategy worked pretty well, so he’s decided to try it again. The first time, the risk was a government shutdown. This time, the Speaker is risking a global economic crisis.

Remember when Boehner said Republicans are “going to have to deal with it as adults”? He apparently doesn’t remember that at all.

It’s not just the Speaker, of course. House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said yesterday he supports the hostage strategy, and sees this as “a time leverage moment,” whatever that is. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) also said they’re eager to play the game of chicken, no matter how catastrophic the potential consequences.

This is nothing short of madness. News organizations are reluctant to characterize stories like these in terms that make one party look worse than the other, but the Republican strategy here is genuinely crazy, and may generate a crisis simply because the GOP has gone over the edge.

They’re playing with fire, and don’t care if all of us get burned.

This isn’t complicated. Democrats and Republicans have, routinely, raised the debt limit many times. Neither party has ever held it hostage, or made sweeping demands. Economists, government officials, and even financial industry leaders have all told Republicans to reject the political games and do what’s right.

What’s more, as we discussed over the weekend, even Republicans know how this has to turn out. Boehner recently said failing to raise the debt limit “would be a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said failure to raise the debt limit would lead to “financial collapse and calamity throughout the world.”

Democrats and Republicans can have a larger debate about entitlements and debt reduction in the fight over the next fiscal year budget. But there’s not enough time for that to occur before we hit the debt ceiling.

Despite all of this, Boehner still wants to hold the debt limit hostage. Dealing with this as “adults” is, by GOP design, no longer an option.