Monday, October 07, 2013

Obama negotiates not negotiating over the debt ceiling

Rick Perlstein linked this article with a short comment, "Even our wins are losses": Igor Bobic at TPM is reporting on Obama's current negotiating over not negotiating, Obama: We're Willing To Fund Government With Republican Priorities TPM 10/07/2013:

Despite Republicans' insistance that he's not willing to come to the table and negotiate re-opening the federal government, President Barack Obama on Monday noted that his party is already willing to accept a short-term measure to fund the government that includes funding the GOP previously considered a policy victory, provided it doesn't touch Obamacare.

"The bill that is being presented to end the government shutdown reflects Republican priorities," Obama said, addressing federal employees at FEMA in Washington. "It's the Republican budget. The funding levels of this short-term funding bill, called the CR, is far lower than what Democrats think it should be.

"Nevertheless Democrats are prepared to put the majority of votes on it to fund the government," he added. "When you hear government not compromising, we're compromising so much we're willing to open the government at funding levels that reflect Republican wishes, that don't at all reflect our wishes."
The full text is here, Remarks by the President at FEMA Headquarters 10/07/2013.

He uses some defiant rhetoric before he gets to the part quoted above. But even the defiant parts have obvious weasel-words included:

What I've said is that I cannot do that under the threat that if Republicans don’t get 100 percent of their way, they’re going to either shut down the government or they are going to default on America’s debt so that America for the first time in history does not pay its bills. That is not something I will do. We’re not going to establish that pattern.

We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of further harm to our economy and middle-class families. We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of a prolonged shutdown until Republicans get 100 percent of what they want. We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of economic catastrophe that economists and CEOs increasingly warn would result if Congress chose to default on America’s obligations. [my emphasis]
But will he give 99% to be the so-called grown-up in the room? Crazy as the Republicans are acting, it's not completely irrational on their part to think Obama will cave and make huge concessions over the debt ceiling. How else are they going to read what he said in that FEMA speech?

Joan Walsh has a recap today of the original fight over the ACA (Obamacare), which has this reminder: "it was the administration’s determination to compromise, and to let the centrist Baucus drive the process, that led Democrats to head into the disastrous August 2009 recess without an actual bill they could tout, let alone defend – and that vacuum was filled by Tea Party hatred at town halls that Rep. Todd Akin (remember him?) appreciatively labeled 'town hells' for Democrats." (GOP’s latest shutdown delusion: They missed the Obamacare negotiations! Salon 10/07/2013)

Charlie Pierce was writing just this morning (The Great Sucker Play Esquire Politics Blog 10/07/2013):

The president has demonstrated that he can be brought to a deal if someone properly engages his impulse to be a conciliator. They're never going to be able to do that by asking him to chloroform the Affordable Care Act. But if they start talking about the deficit, they can get him to listen. If he starts to think about bipartisanship and about problem-solving, and about the rosy dream he painted in his famous 2004 speech at the Democratic convention, a speech that now sounds as though it were delivered by a five-year old, then he can convince himself to do anything. At which point, I will believe that, in doing what he did when he did it, Ted Cruz is the smartest man alive. And I do not, under any circumstances, want to believe that.
This does not sound like a President ready to shove a trillion-dollar platinum coin down the Republicans' throats over hitting the debt limit next week.

There's some pretty hair-raising predictions out there about the consequences of hitting the debt ceiling and defaulting on US debt, e.g., A U.S. Default Seen as Catastrophe Dwarfing Lehman's Fall by Yalman Onaran Bloomberg News 10/07/2013.

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