Watching House Republicans yesterday, it’s hard not to have a sense of deja vu. Early last week, with a deadline looming, the House majority invested time and energy in a right-wing debt-reduction plan (“Cut, Cap, and Balance”) that had absolutely no chance of becoming law. Republicans knew this, but felt compelled to waste a few days anyway.
This week offers a replay. With the deadline even closer, the House GOP could be working on a serious plan that could end the crisis they created. Instead, they’re spending three straight days on Speaker John Boehner’s (R) budget proposal, which, just like last week, is bound to fail.
Indeed, it’s only a matter of time. The House vote, scheduled for 5:30 eastern this afternoon, is expected to be quite close, but even if Boehner can keep enough of his caucus together, it won’t pass the Senate. The majority in the upper chamber put it in writing yesterday.
Fifty-three Democratic senators have signed a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner saying they intend to vote against his plan for an increase in the debt ceiling, virtually assuring its defeat in the Senate even as the speaker lines up Republican votes to pass it in the House on Thursday.
Votes are not final until they are cast. But if the Democrats hold to their promise in the letter, Mr. Boehner’s plan for a six-month increase in borrowing authority will not make it to President Obama’s desk.
“We heard that in your caucus you said the Senate will support your bill,” the senators say in the letter. “We are writing to tell you that we will not support it, and give you the reasons why.”
In the letter, the senators argue that a short-term extension of the debt ceiling would “put America at risk” and “could be nearly as disastrous as a default.”
The Senate Democratic caucus isn’t united on much, but they’re united on this: Boehner’s plan is D.O.A. in the upper chamber. Everyone from Bernie Sanders to Ben Nelson agrees. What’s more, as many as five Senate Republicans are also on record opposing the Speaker’s plan.
Some far-right activist groups pleaded with Senate Dems the other day not to filibuster Boehner’s plan. What the activists didn’t understand is that a filibuster isn’t necessary — at least 58 senators are already on record in opposition to the proposal.
But Boehner & Co. are moving forward anyway. In fact, instead of trying to find a solution that can resolve the crisis, the Speaker is bragging about pushing a proposal he knows the Senate and White House don’t support.
And what of the analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, which helped derail plans for yesterday’s vote? Boehner was forced to make a few touch-ups, but this only served to make it worse. To “improve” the score — i.e., to make it cut the deficit more — the Speaker added some additional up-front cuts, undermining the economy further in 2012. This, of course, is intended to make the package more appealing to the House GOP.
The revised Boehner plan still only raises the debt ceiling long enough to force us to go through the process again in six months. And why does the Speaker want this? He hasn’t said.
In the meantime, with the real possibility that there is no viable solution to the crisis — the Boehner plan won’t pass the Senate; Harry Reid’s plan would struggle in the House — Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are reportedly still engaged in ongoing negotiations. Something to keep an eye on.
The bottom line, meanwhile, remains the same: five days before the Aug. 2 deadline, the House will spend yet another day rallying support for a plan that can’t pass the Senate and won’t get President Obama’s signature. We don’t have time for such nonsensical games, but if Americans wanted responsible governance, they shouldn’t have elected far-right clowns to run the House of Representatives.