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Will House Democrats Hold Firm On The Debt Ceiling?

By Matthew Yglesias on April 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm

"Will House Democrats Hold Firm On The Debt Ceiling?"

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In a savvy piece of analysis, Brian Beutler notes that the posture of the usually irrelevant House minority could actually make a big difference in the debt ceiling fight:

Right now, House Democrats are coalescing around the view that the debt limit should be hiked without major concessions to the GOP attached to it. They want a “clean” increase in the debt ceiling. If House Democrats hold to that position, they’ll force House Republicans to pass a debt limit hike with only Republican votes. What the conservative base of the party would demand under those circumstances is unclear, but there’s a high likelihood it would reach way too far, and be a non-starter in the Senate and with the White House.

That’s where Boehner would get stuck. He knows the debt limit needs to be lifted. He knows that to get a debt limit bill through the Senate, he needs Democratic buy in. And if Pelosi and her leadership team keep Democrats aligned, he knows that means ditching just about all the concessions Republicans want.

Boehner would thus be forced to lift the debt ceiling on Pelosi’s terms, not his own. It would make the defections he suffered during the 2011 spending fight look like a minor rift. But he’d have no choice.

That said, it seems to me that it’ll be difficult for Pelosi to hold House Democrats together unless the White House also takes a firm line on the issue. And to repeat myself on the subject, there’s no reason for anyone to be offering concessions on this point. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, then that creates more and more problems over time. The solution to those problems is to raise the debt ceiling even though it’s a bit politically embarrassing. So the offer should be “we’re willing to raise the debt ceiling, thus solving the debt ceiling problem.” Given that the leaders of both parties favor an increase, agreeing to an increase would be an excellent compromise!

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