House Republicans decide to "punt" on the debt ceiling. The story by Ashley Parker (she covered the Romney campaign during the past presidential election) in yesterday's paper about the Republican retreat in Williamsburg revealed that Paul Ryan was arguing for a short-term extension of the debt ceiling. I thought that this would take time to play out, like a week, as the Republicans haggled among themselves. But by Friday House Republicans had uncharacteristically reached consensus. Here's how Jonathan Weisman lays it out in today's frontpage story:
The decision represents a victory — at least for now — for Mr. Obama, who has said for months that he will not negotiate budget cuts under the threat of a debt default. By punting that threat into the spring, budget negotiations instead will center on two earlier points of leverage: March 1, when $1 trillion in across-the-board military and domestic cuts are set to begin, and March 27, when a stopgap law financing the government will expire.
Reordering the sequences of those hurdles was central to the delicate Republican deliberations that resulted in the new plan. In the days leading to the Williamsburg retreat, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman and former vice-presidential nominee, had been meeting with the leader and three past chairmen of the conservative House Republican Study Committee to discuss a way through the debt ceiling morass.
Those conversations led into Thursday morning, when Mr. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, opened the retreat by going through the timeline for the coming budget fights, according to aides who were there.
They turned the floor over to Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, the House Ways and Means chairman, who delivered a blow-by-blow description of the economic disaster that could be wrought by a government default. Mr. Camp also talked through the notion held by some Republicans that the Treasury Department could manage a debt ceiling breach by channeling the daily in-flow of tax dollars to the most pressing needs, paying government creditors, sending out Social Security checks and financing the military. His message was that it would not work, the aides said.
Then Mr. Ryan stood to talk over the options he had developed with the House conservative leaders. They could do a longer-term debt ceiling extension with specific demands, like converting Medicare into a voucherlike program. Or they could lower expectations, reorder the budget hurdles with a three-month punt, and add the “no budget, no pay” provision.
Persuading Republicans who adamantly oppose raising the debt ceiling took some time, and the ensuing discussion stretched on and on, breaking at noon for lunch on Thursday, resuming at 2:30, until 4 p.m., then concluding Friday.
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority whip, met with freshmen early Friday to make sure they were on board. Mr. Boehner and Mr. Cantor joined Mr. Ryan for one last meeting with conservative leaders — Representatives Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Tom Price of Georgia — to make sure they were on board. Then the top four leaders sealed the agreement midmorning.I would call it more of a quick kick than a punt. Quick kicks are not done anymore in the NFL. Dan Pastorini was the last guy I saw do a quick kick (maybe Danny White did one that I saw, but I don't remember). It's when the quarterback takes the snap from center, usually on third down, and punts it into the secondary. It catches the defense off guard and leads in theory to better field position than running a regular play on third down and then bringing out the punting team on fourth. The quick kick was a third-and-long play. Quick kicks aren't done anymore because passing attacks are much more sophisticated now and picking up long yardage on third down is a regular occurrence; also, passers used to be punters; punting was a skill set expected of your quarterback. No more.
House Republicans quick kicked wisely I believe. They're on more solid footing to extract their social welfare cuts when the sequester kicks in and then after that when the continuing resolution expires. The closer we got to February the greater the chance for another downgrade by one of the rating agencies; Fitch had said as much. When S&P dropped U.S. debt one notch from AAA to AA+ because of the last debt-ceiling standoff it cost taxpayers billions, not to say anything about loses in the markets. If the GOP Mad Mullahs in the House had pressed ahead with a default it would have been insanely destructive to global capitalism, which, as the Monthly Review argues, is largely concentrated in one country, the United States.