Like many (whose job doesn’t entail following the news minute by minute), I find myself having a hard time keeping up with the twist and turns in the debt ceiling debate. One minute, there is a deal, the next…who knows. As each day goes by, there simultaneously seems there will be no raise in the debt ceiling and that a last minute deal (to avoid some supposed default) will be struck because neither party wants the default albatross hung around its neck.
However, the GOP seems to have won this particular battle. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has signaled that, despite his on-the-record rhetoric, the Senate is not looking at tax increases as part of any Senate deal. This is a singular blow to the White House, and a tacit admission of victory by the House GOP caucus. It seems that perhaps Reid is pushing this issue out another day or two to score some points with his party’s base, before he folds up the proverbial tent, “for the good of the country.” Reid knows that the Democrats’ position in this debate does not enjoy the support of most people, no matter how many times grandma is scared.
Despite all this, the GOP is not out of the woods yet. This issue, seemingly more than any other, has brought into stark relief the division between the class of 2010 and the pre-2010 Election members. The 2010 class, by and large elected through the energy of the tea party and other conservative grassroots movements, came into office with a clear mission to stem the growth of the federal government and stop or slow down the policies being pushed by President Obama and Harry Reid. The debt ceiling debate touches on all of the issues that mobilized so many conservatives in 2010 and will probably do so in 2012. House Speaker John Boehner has seemed able to manage the rift in his caucus up to this point, but some cracks have shown in the facade during this debate. Many of the House freshmen, and their more conservative colleagues, have the fresh memory of the last Continuing Resolution and the many (phony) cuts in spending that were touted by the Speaker which were used to get many of these same house members on board with it.
Of course, all of this talk of default could come to naught. There is the possibility of a government shutdown to avoid default, however that is by no means a long-term cure. Any shutdown, rest assured, will be laid at the feet of the Republicans by the mainstream media and the Democrat party. There is also differing opinions on when a default may actually occur. Despite the perceived public relations damage, Republicans should stick firm to the idea of no increase in taxes. They already have a tacit agreement from Reid, and the President is going to be under ever-increasing pressure to sign anything that comes out of Congress (which the White House alluded to over the weekend). Is the package everything conservatives want? No. Will we have to hold both our Congress members’ feet to the fire to get real, meaningful spending cuts, especially if a debt reduction commission is put in place as part of a deal? Yes. But this was never going to be the singular battle. This is, to use the old tone, a war of attrition. Our system did not become dysfunctional overnight, and fixing it will take just as long, if not longer. Let’s take what we can, and move on to the next fight.