We told you so. Forgive me for quoting myself, but here's what I wrote in my last piece about the debt ceiling, explaining why the President was not going to give Congress an easy out on this:
The president does not want to make the Republicans in Congress irrelevant in this conversation; he wants them to come to their senses - or more likely, to their knees - and raise the debt limit without being able to keep their hostage.Well, the Republicans have come to their knees.
Backing down from their hard-line stance, House Republicans said Friday that they would agree to lift the federal government’s statutory borrowing limit for three months, with a requirement that both chambers of Congress pass a budget in that time to clear the way for negotiations on long-term deficit reduction.What? No government shutdown? No making the United States into a deadbeat nation? No crashing the global economy? Nope. The House GOP, at their aptly named 'retreat', seems to have come up with a strategy to retreat from their threats to shoot the debt ceiling hostage. I seem to have predicted this just as their 'retreat' was starting.
Not to toot my own horn, but, you know.
Basically, Republicans have backed themselves into a corner, then negotiated with themselves, and came up with what the New York Times calls a "tactical retreat," but I think it's pretty clear what it is: surrender.
The bigger deal here is not just that it's a face-saving 3-month extension for the debt ceiling that will keep our government from defaulting on obligations Congress already racked up, but something most observers I don't see mentioning: with this offer, the Republicans have essentially permanently rescinded their threat to hold the debt limit hostage to collect as ransom draconian cuts to the social safety net and programs that give ordinary people a hand up. Their new trump card is an enforcement mechanism to get both sides to the table to actually pass a budget.
The Republicans’ new tack is designed to start a more orderly negotiation with Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats on bipartisan ways to shrink the government’s trillion-dollar deficit. To add muscle to their efforts to bring Senate Democrats to the table, House Republicans will include a provision in the debt ceiling legislation that says lawmakers will not be paid if they do not pass a budget blueprint.I would much rather have members of Congress paid by the days they actually work, given the House GOP majority's propensity to keep the House in vacation two out of every three days of the year. But that's beside the point. Watch what just happened here: The threat to use the nation's ability to pay its bills as a bargaining chip has now disappeared from the GOP, now or in three months. Republicans just went from end the safety net or we collapse the global economy to pass a budget or members of Congress risk not getting paid!
I don't think anyone can honestly disagree with the idea that Congress should pass a budget. Furthermore, this threat, if it works at all, will force Republicans to the table to compromise rather than hold to their Paul Ryan path-to-poverty type budgets. In other words, it would diminish the power of the radicals in the House. If one didn't know any better, one would almost be tempted to think that this is John Boehner's way of emasculating the House Tea Party caucus after he was himself emasculated by President Obama.
The Republicans thought that they could pretend to hold the hostage and collect a ransom. They thought that because the president negotiated with them in 2011 (in which, by the way, he completely rolled them over without them knowing), that he would do it again. What they didn't know is the strategic plan the president has been following methodically since the start to break the extremists' back: first, rescue the hostages. Then, leave no way out for the hostage takers to escape. Then, bring them to their knees.
Barack Obama is no one's fool. He cares about this country more deeply than any president in most of our lifetimes. But he is also a consummate political genius. He will work with the opposing side for the good of the country; he will meet them more than half way if necessary to make progress. But you will not get away with trying hurt the country he loves. He will make you cry uncle. America's enemies abroad already know that. It's time our domestic politicians learned it, too. Let the following sum it up: