Friday, May 26, 2023

Joe Did What? State of the Hostage Situation


Poster by TaoJones42, available from Redbubble for $15.56.

As somebody or other said you can never make a deal until you do, and it looks, according to reporting from Jim Tankersley and Catie Edmondson for The New York Times last night, corroborated this morning by the Washington Post, like we're just about there with the debt ceiling, and details are starting to emerge from the process in a way they weren't before. I think we need to fold up the way we feel about the existence of the debt ceiling and keep it for next time Democrats have majorities in both houses of Congress, and take it out then and put a wooden stake through that stupid law's heart and cut off its head and fill its mouth with garlic and bury it at a crossroad (using the reconciliation procedure as needed). I may not be alive by then (last time there was a real chance was probably 1993), so I'm telling you now.

Meanwhile, we might as well turn our attention to what we're going to get instead, which Josh Marshall says is unexpectedly good: it lifts the debt ceiling, rather than increasing it to a given number, for the next two years, until out beyond the next presidential election, so that we won't have to think about it again until 2025, and the budget cuts, as far as is currently understood, are less violent than feared, keeping the veterans' money as is and freezing the rest of the non-defense discretionary spending at 2023 rather than 2022 levels, or just a bit less:

There are cuts that bring the numbers in a bit under 2023 levels. But they make up that money but [sic, he means "by"] taking $10 billion from the $80 billion of expanded funding for the IRS. Taking $10 billion away from the increased funding for the IRS allows Republicans to say they clawed back some of the money going to that mythical army of IRS “agents” who are going to harass ordinary working folk. That’s not great. But $10 billion off the $80 billion leaves the great bulk of the funding intact and it basically protects key social spending

David Dayen had been fretting about a novelty plan for what happens when Congress can't pass an actual budget this coming September. An "automatic continuing resolution" will come into effect—not "if", but when, because that's clearly the whole point, reminding him of the horrible "fiscal cliff" and "sequester" chaos of early 2013:

This is expressed in terms of “incentivizing” Congress to pass the spending bills, but clearly it relieves them of having to do so. Under this deal, the cuts will go through whether they pass a bill, and have to go on the record on specific trims, or not. That’s a similar mechanism as the sequester, with its across-the-board spending reductions to each program affected. It’s austerity without fingerprints....

If it’s FY2023, as the White House wants, the CR would just be what every CR is: a freeze at current levels. That would be a best-case scenario for Democrats, and House Republicans know it, which is why I don’t buy that it will happen.

If it’s FY2022, the House Republican vision, then it’s a deep cut. And if military and veterans programs are exempted, as the GOP wants, the impact on the nondefense discretionary budget is much higher. A return to FY2022 while exempting the Pentagon and the VA would be an effective 30 percent cut...

But it is 2023, meaning an automatic CR for fiscal '24, if the Times reporting holds up, and since it's a two-year plan, an automatic CR for fiscal '25 effecting a one-percent rise in discretionary spending.

McCarthy will have to convince his colleagues that this is a victory by taking a victory lap—the extortion strategy of using the debt ceiling as a hostage worked!—with some gratuitous nastiness toward Medicaid patients, I guess, and whatever other kinds of cruelty his people can work in, and we won't like the result. And in a manner of speaking he'll be right; this isn't what we really need, and as Marshall points out, it shouldn't be happening at all.

But—again, if it holds—it's got to be because McCarthy is acknowledging that he doesn't control his caucus. Those kids really do want the default that Donald Trump has called for and Greene and Gaetz have dismissed as a non-issue. They barely passed the horrendous Republican "Limit, Save, Grow" bill McCarthy is so proud of pushing through the House at the end of April (four Rebublicans wouldn't vote for that one) because they knew it would never become law. 

It's because nothing freeing us from the debt ceiling even temporarily is going to pass the House without some votes from Democrats, and McCarthy has had to accept that. That's what this deal is intended to do—get some Democrats to vote for it.

It's a real personal triumph for Biden and a real escape from a horrifying catastrophe for the nation, and a serious wound for the Freeeedom Caucus, which will have shown they can't control McCarthy as well as promised, and in the long run I think a blow to McCarthy himself (as the 2011 deal was to John Boehner). 

And the MAGA wish list is as dead as if they'd never used the hostage-taking strategy at all; their accomplishment is more like if Dr. Evil had successfully traded the Kreplachistan nuke for a million dollars. Email update for Josh's subscribers says, "Dark Brandon, indeed."

No comments:

Post a Comment