Is Anyone Ready to Get Serious?

Is Anyone Ready to Get Serious?

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

As we prepare to enter week two of the insane Government shut-down, perhaps some realism will descend on Washington. According to most handicappers of such craziness, however, nothing is likely to materialize on the budget stand-off until the October 17 debt ceiling borrowing deadline is closer.  To put the Government back in business and to avoid a possible global economic crisis will require a meeting and negotiations. Negotiations, however, involve trade-offs where there are indeed swaps. If the Republicans can remove the obsession among their right-wing Members with the totally hopeless effort to defund the Affordable Health Act, there could be movement; but it will remain to be seen as to what the Democrats will give back to the Republicans. 

The Republican concession will only occur if Members in both chambers step forward and can move the Speaker to bring both the budget and the debt ceiling extension to the House floor. It will need Senators like McCain or Hatch or Cornyn or Graham or similar leaders in the House to publically confront their own party. They will need to be willing to accept their party’s criticism in the name of governing. Another alternative route might be if a group of Republican governors such as Kasich, Christie, and Jindal, for example, similarly stood up and took some heat to push the GOP out of its hole. Finally, perhaps the business and financial community might be able to scare the politicians—even in their campaign coffers–to recognize the consequences if they let the country default and the economy go haywire.

Ultimately, it is the Democrats who truly need to save Boehner his job—at least until the end of this Congress.  If they get a clean continuing resolution (CR) and serious extension of the debt ceiling, President Obama must be forthright and direct with Boehner.  In addition to addressing taxes; social spending; military sequestered funds; and entitlements, the President may well need—for example–to permit the Keystone pipeline to proceed and to hold back the pace of environmental regulation enforcement. 

The problem with all of this speculation is that there is no guarantee that Speaker Boehner is ready to take his foot off the pedal and start leading his party or even that there will be real pressure and support for him to do so. If the House extremists continue to dictate the strategy to a compliant Republican leadership all bets remain off. It; then only the ballot box will save the Union. 

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