Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cleaning the Barn: John Boehner's Parting Gift to Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan can say this "process stinks" all he wants, but the simple truth is John Boehner, his soon to be predecessor, just did him the biggest favor of his political life. Faced with a looming debt-ceiling default, Boehner didn't just take a bullet for him, he took the whole damn firing squad.

The budget deal now being worked out by Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the White House doesn't just take the threat of debt default off the table, it takes it off through March 2017. It also provides $80 billion of sequester relief that will be split evenly between defense and domestic spending, thus ensuring that there will be no government shutdown during what will undoubtedly be a tightly contested presidential election.

The wingnuts on the Right are already screaming bloody murder - what else is new - but the deal on the whole is a good one that both parties can live with. Indeed, it's the kind of deal that used to get done all the time before Washington became ground zero for gridlock. If anyone should be squawking, it's the Democrats. They were hoping they could use the threat of both a government shutdown and debt default against Republicans in 2016. Now those issues have been taken off the table.

It's still not a given that the deal will even pass the House, even with Democratic support. Forget the Freedom Caucus, many establishment Republicans are pissed that they were bypassed by leadership. Still, if I were a betting man, I'd say between both parties there should be enough votes for it to pass. The real test will come in the Senate where McConnell will have to contend with the likes of Ted Cruz, et al.

The lesson here, if there is one, is that government CAN work when it wants to. This is good news for many who had given up hope that this town could accomplish anything significant. And make no mistake about it, passing a two-year budget deal that removes the threat of a debt default is not only significant, it's practically earth shattering. When I first heard about it, I thought someone was pulling my leg.

I'm sure a large part of why this deal got consummated was that Boehner was on his way out. There's something liberating about knowing you don't have anything more to fear from your opponents. Kind of like when an employee puts in his two-week notice. What's the worst that can happen? They can't fire you, you're already leaving. Boy, what I wouldn't give to be able to read Boehner's mind. Since taking over the House in 2011, the Tea Party has made his life a living hell.

Payback's a bitch, ain't it?

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