Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stop Fretting: The Debt-Ceiling Crisis Is Over!

January 1981:  United States hostages departing an airplane on their return from Iran after being held for 444 days. One of the hostages is waving his fists in the air, and a sign on the plane door says, 'Welcome Back to Freedom'.  

If you’re reading the newspapers just now to get caught up on the debt-ceiling crisis, you may have the impression that events are now spinning utterly out of control. “A day that was supposed to bring Washington to the edge of resolving the fiscal showdown instead seemed to bring chaos and retrenching,” reports the New York Times. “A campaign to persuade House Republicans to lift the federal debt limit collapsed in humiliating failure Tuesday, leaving Washington careering toward a critical deadline just two days away, with no clear plan for avoiding a government default,” warns the Washington Post.

This is the opposite of what is going on. In fact, the events of yesterday amounted to utter success. The debt ceiling will be lifted, the crisis is over, and so, too, may be the larger Constitutional struggle it unleashed.

The mistaken impression of chaos and collapse was left by the collapse of the House Republican plan. But the House Republicans are the hostage-takers. It’s good that their plan collapsed. Their plan was to insist on winning at least some concession from President Obama, testing his resolve not to be extorted, and, at least, pushing the crisis until the last moment.

The House bill failed because it relied entirely on Republican votes, which requires near-unanimity from the Republican caucus. A small number of Republicans so fanatical they refuse to even work within existing political constraints, and therefore regularly undermine the right’s leverage, refused to support any bill. Having spent the day trying to cobble together even a tiny ransom demand, House GOP leaders simply gave up. 

“It’s all over. We’ll take the Senate deal,” a senior Republican aide told National Review’s Jonathan Strong.
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