House Speaker John Boehner (R) will, in all likelihood, finally pass a debt-ceiling bill later this afternoon. I was going to say “his” debt-ceiling bill, but we all know Boehner’s bill was effectively killed last night, and the revised version today is a different animal.
Today’s measure will finally clear the House in an entirely partisan way: no Democrats were involved in writing the bill; no Democrats will end up voting for the bill.
And then what? If Boehner has learned anything from this week, it should be this: if the House is going to prevent a global economic crisis next week, the Speaker is going to need to embrace a bill that can get at least some Democratic support. There’s really no way around this basic truth. The arithmetic is unforgiving.
With this in mind, Kevin Drum said something last night that got me thinking.
If Boehner can’t get the tea partiers in the House to support his proposal, and if Harry Reid can’t find 60 votes in the Senate for his, then pretty shortly they’ll figure out that there’s only one way to pass something: forge a compromise that can get substantial support from both Democrats and non-tea-party Republicans. Such a compromise is almost certainly available, and all it takes to get there is for Boehner to be willing to admit the obvious: the tea partiers just aren’t willing to deal, period. They want to burn the house down so they can build something better from the ashes. They’re insane.
So walk away from the tea partiers. Instead, strike a deal that a hundred non-insane House Republicans and 20 or 30 non-insane Senate Republicans can support. Add that to a majority of the Democratic caucus and you’re done. You’ve saved the country.
I strongly agree with all of this. By most estimates, there’s a group of House Republicans — I call it the “Suicide Squad” — that just don’t want to raise the debt ceiling and would gladly pursue default. They’ll vote for right-wing measures such as CC&B, or something close to it, but anything else is simply out of the question.
Exactly how big is this contingent? That’s unclear. There are 240 House Republicans, though, and it’ll take 217 votes to prevent a total disaster. Does the Suicide Squad include more than 23 members? Almost certainly, yes. This, again, makes it necessary for Boehner to embrace a plan that can garner some Democratic support.
For me, the most pressing question, which I don’t know the answer to, is, how big is the Republicans’ sane contingent? Kevin envisions 100 or so non-insane House Republicans joining a similar number of House Democrats to save the country. Sounds good. But are there 100 sane House Republicans? I honestly have no idea. Is there a reliable count of such things?
I should also note that there are 193 House Democrats, and if they could all (or nearly all) be convinced to support a deal, Boehner would really only have to deliver a few dozen House Republicans to prevent the catastrophe.
This won’t happen — it would surely mark the end of Boehner’s career — but if preventing a recession is a priority, the Speaker should at least keep the numbers in mind.