As he finished a defiant defense of his latest patched-up Budget Control Bill, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told the American people “We tried to do our best for our country, but some people still say no.” What the Speaker meant by that was the House Republicans had tried their level best to compromise on a bill that would allow the debt ceiling increase crisis to finally be dealt with.
However, as things have developed since the day Barack Obama took office, “compromise” means moving the debate further and further to the right, and in Boehner’s latest effort to compromise, he was not trying to appease Democrats, but his own radical conservative wing of Tea Party Republicans—the people still saying “no”.
That group of mostly freshmen representatives has basically taken control of the legislative process from the majority of members of both parties, including the House Republican leadership, who do not share the Tea Party’s lack of interest in compromise.
Boehner discovered the very real limits of his own power when he and other Republican leaders told the Tea Party members this week to “get their ass in line” to support Boehner’s revised budget bill. This was prior to the Thursday debacle, in which that order was widely ignored by the Tea Party, and Boehner had to once again delay a vote on his measure until he could move it even further away from anything the Democrats would vote for.
On Friday, having added a provision that the Congress would not pass any future debt ceiling increase unless it had passed a balanced budget amendment and sent it to the states for ratification, Boehner finally got a majority vote for the Budget Control Act of 2011. In addition to steeply cutting spending, and not including any tax increases, the bill also allowed for a short-term increase in the debt ceiling.
The Senate on Friday evening promptly “tabled” consideration of Boehner’s bill, meaning the House bill was, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had promised, DOA in the Senate. The upper house then took up Senator Reid’s plan, which the House Republicans have already promised, in a tit-for-tat display, would arrive DOA in the House.
Senator Reid indicated Friday his counterpart on the Republican side, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate Minority Leader, had shown little interest in compromise so far. However, if the two senators can come together to produce a true bi-partisan bill, support in the House will likely be easier for Boehner to put together since in that event he can depend upon votes from House Democrats.
August 2nd is the presumed deadline for extending the debt ceiling before the USA can no longer pay all of its debt obligations, and goes into default.