According to a Politico report that has scared hell out of the nation and briefly thrown me into agreement with Ross Douthat, a substantial number of House Republicans are considering refusing to raise the debt ceiling. The plan is to use the threat of default and/or federal shutdown to force Obama to agree to spending cuts—cuts he has repeatedly refused to make. That part of the story should be eerily familiar from last year, when maneuvering over the debt ceiling ended in the downgrade of the credit of the United States. Everyone agreed that was a disaster, both for the union and for the Republican caucus. This year, though, will be totally different. Alarming quote after the jump.
I spoke too soon. The House has passed a Senate bill to make permanent the Bush-era tax cuts for individuals making less than $400,000 a year and prevent large cuts to defense and military spending. It was ugly. Congress has not voted on a bill on New Year’s Day since 1951, when it approved spending for the Korean War. That adventure was a resounding success compared to what happened yesterday, when 151 House Republicans voted against a bill that required hail-Mary negotiations even to reach the floor. To give you an idea of what John Boehner had to contend with, here’s Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina:
I have read the bill and can’t find the spending cuts—even with an electron magnifying glass. It’s part medicinal, part placebo, and part treating the symptoms but not the underlying pathology.
Daniel Webster he is not.
Remember on Friday when we declared American politics too selfishly broken to address the basic management of the United States? It turns out we were wrong, because the President and congressional leaders reached a deal on the national debt ceiling last night. The package still needs the support of both houses—including several notoriously intransigent members—but tentatively, maybe even presumably, the lights are going to stay on. “Sausage making is not pretty,” Diane Feinstein told the Times. “But the sausage we have, I think, is a very different sausage from when we started.” And in the end, isn’t that what we all what from our food? Different?
As I write this, my neighbor Greg is watching me from his front stoop, which he does for pretty much the entirety of my workday. Greg is not employed; he receives Social Security disability payments and lives in a state-subsidized apartment, leaving him and his girlfriend free to drink beer on the stoop from 11am to sundown—which, in Missoula this time of year, happens around 9:30. Because my desk is in my window, Greg is under the impression that I spend all my waking hours on the computer. That’s only kind of true; Greg just sees me whenever I’m on the computer because he is always looking, and I am on the computer a lot because that’s my job. As a self-employed person, I pay double Social Security,* so I sometimes imagine that I am covering myself and Greg, too. I try not to, though, because he is super nice. Last night, when he drunkenly greeted me upon my arrival home, he noticed that I was sick and joked that I had caught a computer virus. It was pretty funny, especially for a guy who had been drinking for 10 consecutive hours. It was also infuriating, since I am not just a nerdy shut-in the same age as Greg but also one of the large number of people who work to ensure that he does not die. This is what we call the Problem of Others.
Since July, rumors have circulated that representatives of PhRMA—Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry’s trade group and lobbying machine—were meeting with President Obama to discuss potential pharmaceutical pricing regulations in health care reform. Back in 1994, when Clinton tried to overhaul the health care system, PhRMA was instrumental in blocking reform and funding a subsequent Republican resurgence in Congress that, among other services to the nation, forced the President to admit to getting a blowjob from a fat girl on television.* The drug industry is one of the largest sources of lobbying money in Congress, and their opposition to Medicare price negotiations has been vigorous and longstanding. During the 2008 campaign, Obama cited such negotiations, along with the importation of inexpensive prescription drugs from Canada, as a major objective of his reform plan. Now, however, a deal has been struck, Medicare negotiations are off the table, and PhRMA has invested $150 million in advertisements supporting the Baucus bill.