Patterico's Pontifications

4/28/2023

Did Kevin McCarthy Outflank Biden and the Dems on the Debt Ceiling Debate?

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:30 am



[guest post by JVW]

I’ve been listening to The Editors podcast from NRO recently and at the same time reading some articles done by Noah Rothman, who recently came over to National Review after about eight years as Commentary. Despite the incessant mainstream media crowing about how the Biden Administration and Congressional Democrats had cornered Republicans on the debt ceiling negotiations, creating a scenario in which the GOP would likely have to capitulate and agree to a “clean” raising of the debt ceiling without any concessions, Mr. Rothman believes that Speaker Kevin McCarthy may have turned the tables on the Dems by negotiating a deal with the fractious Republican House caucus:

When House Speaker Kevin McCarthy revealed his plan to couple spending cuts and revisions to the Democrats’ preferred social programs with a debt-ceiling hike, it seemed to me like a risky bet.

The substance of the speaker’s proposal wasn’t overly ambitious — particularly since the stakes of his gamble were limited by the improbability that his proposals would get a fair hearing from Democrats in the Senate and White House. His plan to raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion or until March 2024 (whichever came first) would be linked to capping discretionary spending at 2022 levels. Indeed, by abandoning the desire to return to pre-pandemic spending rates, McCarthy had actually moved slightly in the Democrats’ direction.

Beyond that, McCarthy sought to reclaim unobligated funds appropriated to address the Covid emergency, which is now over. The measure would also include augmented work requirements for eligible, able-bodied recipients of federal relief programs, and it would pare back the provisions in the so-called Inflation Reduction Act that had nothing whatsoever to do with inflation. In sum, it was an unobjectionable opening bid.

Naturally, this sop to Democrats didn’t sit well with some of the more pugnacious members of the caucus, and McCarthy found himself having to reprise his role as bargainer/conciliator visiting reluctant Republicans to convince them that this was the best hand that the GOP had to play. In the end he was successful, and he lost no more than the four votes he could afford to lose, winning over recalcitrants like Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and my old schoolmate Thomas Massie. Noted horse’s ass Matt Gaetz demanded and received the augmented work requirements, then voted against the bill anyway.

This counts as a win for McCarthy and the Republican House members. The Biden Administration’s strategy has been to refuse to negotiate with McCarthy, demanding total surrender on the assumption that the Speaker would have no chance of getting 218 votes (one Republican member and two Democrats were absent from Thursday morning’s vote, thus the final vote was 217-215 in favor) on a bill, and therefore the final agreement would be written by Chuck Schumer with minimal input from Cocaine Mitch McConnell (who understandably does not like these sort of high-wire negotiations). But now, with an actual House-passed bill on the table, the Senate will have to act and the Biden Administration will have to horse trade. Here is more from Noah Rothman:

The party in control of the White House is ready to demagogue the Republican bill to death, according to Politico’s reporting. The party will pound the table on the GOP’s plan to increase work requirements for federal beneficiaries and attack the efforts to rescind the spending devoted to climate change in a law that was supposedly designed to restore price stability. Demagoguery is, however, a two-way street.

Will Democrats risk default merely to preserve the unspent funds American taxpayers devoted to an emergency that’s over, Republicans might ask? Do Democrats want to play chicken with America’s credit rating in defense of the orgy of spending on climate-related giveaways passed under the surreptitious guise that it somehow puts downward pressure on inflation? Is returning to last year’s discretionary spending levels such an apocalyptic prospect that the party in power would put the country’s finances at risk? If cutting spending in exchange for a debt ceiling hike is such an abdication of responsibility, why was that precise sequence of events routine for so many years leading up to this impasse?

Indeed, with Republicans united, it’s the Democrats who are now starting to blink. “He should negotiate on the budget,” Senator Amy Klobuchar said of Biden on Sunday. “That is the place to negotiate, and they should start those negotiations now.” Senator Joe Manchin agreed, adding that McCarthy’s is the “only bill actually moving through Congress that would prevent default.” House Democrats such as Representatives Debbie Dingell and Greg Landsman are also starting to publicly sour on the White House’s strategy of stonewalling House Republicans.

The GOP won’t end up getting everything they voted on in this bill. It’s doubtful that the entire remaining balance of the COVID emergency funds will be rescinded, a one-percent cap on spending growth if imposed will almost certainly be violated the moment we turn our attention elsewhere, and Democrats will find a way around the tightening of work requirements for welfare recipients. But the GOP proposal cancels the thousands of new IRS workers the Democrats planned to hire and revokes the student loan forgiveness scheme the Biden Administration attempted to impose unconstitutionally by Executive Order. The Administration may actually want an escape hatch from this ill-conceived campaign pander and would welcome being able to blame it on those nasty old Republicans, lest the whole thing be struck down by the courts as an obvious abuse of Executive power.

If the GOP plan were incorporated in full, the Congressional Budget Office calculates that the savings over ten years would come to around $4.8 trillion. That sounds impressive right up until Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz), one of the four Republicans who voted nay, points out that come 2033 the national debt would “only” be $47 trillion instead of the projected $52 trillion. This is an opening salvo in a long battle to acknowledge the havoc that massive levels of debt are doing to our economy and our society, but at least the GOP now has taken the field in full armor.

– JVW

32 Responses to “Did Kevin McCarthy Outflank Biden and the Dems on the Debt Ceiling Debate?”

  1. Americans have unrealistic expectations when it comes to government spending:

    ………
    The (March 2023 AP-NORC poll) finds U.S. adults are closely divided over whether they want to see a bigger government offering more services or a smaller government offering fewer services. But a clear majority — 60% — say they think government is spending too much altogether. Just 16% say the government is spending too little, while 22% say spending levels are about right.
    ……..
    Federal expenditures are expected to be equal in size to roughly 24% of all U.S. economic activity for the next several years, a figure that will likely grow as an aging population leads to more spending on Social Security and Medicare. Government spending accounted for just 20.5% of U.S. gross domestic product a decade ago, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget.
    ………
    Roughly 6 in 10 adults say the government is spending too little on education, health care, infrastructure and Social Security, as well as assistance to the poor and Medicare. About half say government is spending too little on border security, child care assistance, drug rehabilitation, the environment and law enforcement.

    By comparison, a wide majority — 69% — say the U.S. is spending too much on assistance to other countries. But slashing foreign aid would have almost no impact on the overall size of the government, as it accounts for less than 1% of all federal spending, and major programs such as Social Security and Medicare are causing the government to grow in size over the next decade.
    ………
    About a third of U.S. adults say spending on the military is too little and nearly as many say it’s too much; an additional third say it’s about right.

    Bipartisan majorities back more spending on infrastructure and Social Security. …….

    Most Republicans say too much is spent on assistance to big cities (65% vs. just 19% of Democrats), and about half say too much is spent on the environment (51% vs. just 6% of Democrats). Republicans are more likely than Democrats to indicate that the military, law enforcement and border security are underfunded. By comparison, far more Democrats say too little is spent on aid for the poor (80% vs. 38% of Republicans), the environment (73% vs. 21% of Republicans), child care assistance (71% vs. 34% of Republicans), drug rehabilitation (67% vs. 36% of Republicans), and scientific research (54% vs. 24% of Republicans).
    ………

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  2. Rip Murdock (d2a2a8) — 4/28/2023 @ 9:56 am

    Which explains why McCarthy’s debt ceiling bill passed with only a two-vote margin. Hardly a mandate.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  3. How are the shills at the MSM responding?

    Kevin M (f94f4f)

  4. Which explains why McCarthy’s debt ceiling bill passed with only a two-vote margin. Hardly a mandate.

    Obamacare passed with a tiny margin, too.

    Kevin M (f94f4f)

  5. This is an opening salvo in a long battle to acknowledge the havoc that massive levels of debt are doing to our economy and our society, but at least the GOP now has taken the field in full armor.

    Armor? Debt? LOL:

    The United States has appropriated approximately $115 billion in emergency funding to support Ukraine since February 24, 2022. This aid provides money for Ukraine, American partners in regions affected by the conflict, and US national security programs.

    Here’s another way to think of it: the federal government spent $6.48 trillion last fiscal year, meaning the money spent on Ukraine today would be equivalent to approximately 2% of the US budget.

    How is the money for Ukraine distributed?

    Nearly 95% of the discretionary spending for Ukraine goes to the Department of Defense and the State Department, which manages the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The remaining funds are dispersed among government and non-government agencies that provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees.

    https://usafacts.org/articles/how-much-money-has-the-us-given-ukraine-since-russias-invasion/#:~:text=The%20United%20States%20has%20appropriated%20approximately%20%24115%20billion,by%20the%20conflict%2C%20and%20US%20national%20security%20programs.

    DCSCA (950116)

  6. Obamacare passed with a tiny margin, too.

    Kevin M (f94f4f) — 4/28/2023 @ 10:03 am

    But it passed the Senate 60-39. This debt ceiling is unlikely to get that far.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  7. But it passed the Senate 60-39. This debt ceiling is unlikely to get that far.

    Senator Ted Stevens could not be reached for comment.

    Kevin M (f94f4f)

  8. This debt ceiling is unlikely to get that far.

    No, but a negotiated one will pass near-unanimously at 11:59 PM some day this summer.

    Kevin M (f94f4f)

  9. Uh-huh.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  10. These two wretched, parasitic, institutional political parties have done more damage to the United States of America than Lee, the Kaiser, Tojo, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Khruschev, Brezhnev, Bin Laden, Putin, Jinping, the United Nations and, of course, Nixon- could have dreamed.

    … and Mephistopheles grinned.

    DCSCA (ced458)

  11. Americans have unrealistic expectations when it comes to government spending:

    One of the things that I didn’t bother to mention is that McCarthy had to win over votes from Midwest Republicans by agreeing to leave ethanol subsidies alone. I hate ethanol subsidies. But I do sort of understand that Midwest Republicans would see sugar subsidies in the South, public transportation subsidies in the big cities, shipping subsidies in the port cities, and feel entitled to get in on the looting. It’s going to take one giant compromise to rid ourselves of all of this Washington waste.

    I actually do have some level of respect for the four Republican House members who refused to vote for the debt ceiling increase, to the degree at least that they are openly acknowledging that we can’t go on like this. Of course when they find themselves in the majority then they will probably forget their fiscal conservatism if tax cuts and defense spending increases are dangled in front of them. And clearly 99% of Congress is far too cowardly to acknowledge that the growth of entitlement spending cannot be maintained.

    JVW (1ad43e)

  12. Speaking of ethanol, all these two parties are doing is fueling further populist rage across the country. It’s anecdotal, but one can hear it tal;ked about at checkout lines in the grocery stores– at libraries… in thrift stores, at gthe post office, at the Walmart… and even see it in front yards of homes. One fella down the road in very blue California has his entire home festooned from roof to fence and on his pick-up truck as well, with Trump 2024 placards, red, white and blue banners and flags. It’s an obvious eyesore but he’s clearly not alone as this rage keeps festering in some surprisingly unlikely places…

    DCSCA (ced458)

  13. I don’t like seeing funding cuts for military men and women. While we can make viable complaints about VA management, cutting services that would directly impact veterans isn’t the way to go.

    Dana (560c99)

  14. @13. You can cut a helluva lot of fat out of a trillion dollar a year DoD budget and still keep personnel properly compensated by shifting budgets around. They get some sweet allotments, discounts and breaks on a great number of goods and services; from housing to food, to education opportunities, travel to healthcare– and assorted state and government services as well and so on. My own neighbors- both Marines- one an active lieutenant, his wife a retired medic- are raising two small kids and have shared some of the sweet deals they’re afforded thanks to the DoD- even their moving allowances are a sweet package –they’re currently selling their home and moving to an off base home in Texas to complete his military/government funded PhD program before they are sent on to Maryland- where he will be teaching at Annapolis. And he’s still a young man so his 20 year retirement package when he musters out is also a nice deal.

    DCSCA (5dcfdf)

  15. It’s too bad that it takes a Democrat president for a GOP majority in Congress to start taking fiscal conservatism seriously.
    Sigh.

    Paul Montagu (8f0dc7)

  16. How are the shills at the MSM responding?

    As expected.

    CNN: McCarthy’s victory on debt ceiling vote may be short-lived

    CNN: Democrats target House Republicans who voted to repeal climate provisions driving billions of dollars of investments to their districts

    ABC: White House decries GOP debt ceiling bill as ‘ransom note’

    CBS: Republican debt ceiling bill dead on arrival in Democratic-controlled Senate

    NPR, to it’s credit, plays it pretty straightforward down the center: Republicans hope McCarthy’s bill gives him leverage in debt ceiling standoff, and CBS News does have some additional stories discussing the surprising show of GOP unity and mentioning that it puts pressure on the Dems. But most of this is pretty much what you would expect from our complacent and cloistered media elite.

    JVW (1ad43e)

  17. The debt ceiling vote will be the high water mark of McCarthy’s speakership before someone moves to “vacate the chair.”

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  18. It’s too bad that it takes a Democrat president for a GOP majority in Congress to start taking fiscal conservatism seriously

    Rather it takes a Speaker who is willing to do it. Gingrich did, with help from Perot. Hastert did not. Now, maybe McCarthy is just a ventriloquist dummy, but this is the right path.

    Kevin M (f94f4f)

  19. before someone moves to “vacate the chair.”

    Who is going to do that? Is Boebert planning to run? MTG?

    Kevin M (f94f4f)

  20. Rather it takes a Speaker who is willing to do it. Gingrich did, with help from Perot. Hastert did not.

    Hastert had a budget surplus to play with, thanks to Gingrich, until war, recession and tax cuts obliterated it. The GOP in 2011 was able to get Harry Reid and Obama to sign onto the sequester, thanks more to the Tea Party than Boehner.

    Paul Montagu (8f0dc7)

  21. Fiscal responsibility is important even if you have cash to burn. Maybe even especially then.

    Kevin M (f94f4f)

  22. Targeting civilians again because that’s what a genocide looks like:

    This has not been labeled a war crime, possibly because the responsibility is not clear, while the moving of children has, possibly because the Russian government has practically admitted it, although they claim they are not keeping children from their parents and relatives. Also maybe because it’s a lighter charge, but enough to arrest Putin if he goes outside any place not allied with him.

    Meanwhile, Ukraine has been accused of the war crime of endangering civilians, although the Amnesty International report is partially retracted because they did not ask the Ukrainian government what alternatives it has. (and what about time pressure and inexperience?)

    They also sat on the report

    https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/27/us/amnesty-international-report-ukraine-russia.html

    They say the laws of war apply to defenders as well as aggressors, and ignore the fact that the Russians are not abiding by the rules of war such that it would have mattered often where Ukrainian soldiers were.

    And of course they have more evidence about the more humane side.
    So, as usual, international law tends to be on the side of the murderers and the torturers.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  23. before someone moves to “vacate the chair.”

    Who is going to do that? Is Boebert planning to run? MTG?

    Kevin M (f94f4f) — 4/28/2023 @ 12:54 pm

    Anyone can play.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  24. 20. Paul Montagu (8f0dc7) — 4/28/2023 @ 1:02 pm

    Hastert had a budget surplus to play with, thanks to Gingrich, until war, recession and tax cuts obliterated it.

    Thanks to Clinton, who probably influenced the Federal Reserve Board to allow economic growth.

    But he didn’t want Republicans to know the secret. And pretended there was a budget crisis. Because he wanted omnibus bills.

    In 1992 he ran on having an “economic plan” endorsed by Goldman Sachs (probably corruptly) which he promptly discarded after the election.

    In 1993, Clinton had a budget resolution pass by one vote in both the Senate and the House, using only Democrats and he didn’t want any Republican votes.

    He wanted to fool the American people about which party was more partisan but it didn’t work, since people correctly assumed the split vote in the Dem party and the solid Republican vote meant that the Dems were more partisan since neither party before was solidly for or against anything, and the result was the Democrats lost control of the Congress, including the House of representatives, for the first time in 40 years.

    His health insurance plan which he pretended Hillary had come up with (so bad that Democrats did not bring it to the floor for a vote) was also afactor.s votes.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  25. Biden and company is either shooting for an emergency debt ceiling bill which will pass with some Republican votes, perhaps after several small raises, or the trillion dollar coin.

    We won’t see his moves till it gets very close to the deadline. (which may be a bit of a false deadline)

    The Democrats are falsely arguing that failure to raise the debt ceiling means default, when it only means some spending will not happen in time. (They argue that the Treasury cannot pick and choose what it pays and that anyway they have made no plans for it)

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  26. Sammy, what Amnesty should’ve done was publish reports on both Russia and Ukraine. It would’ve been difficult for them to report on the former because Russia wasn’t cooperating, but their one-sidedness put a cooperating Ukraine in a disadvantageous position and enabled Putin to exploit the matter.

    Paul Montagu (8f0dc7)

  27. Given the opposition by the Fed, the “trillion dollar coin” is a fantasy.

    The Democrats are falsely arguing that failure to raise the debt ceiling means default, when it only means some spending will not happen in time.

    Like bond repayments.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  28. Biden is worried about being out flanked on the left. Any moderate democrat who doesn’t oppose this will be primaried. Better solution if government is shutdown declare martial law arrest republicans and lock them up like Lincoln did with the copperheads. Appoint AOC as commissar for justice!

    asset (413050)

  29. Biden is worried about being out flanked on the left…

    For a devoted Irish Catholic who can’t remember he was in Ireland for a week just 14 days ago, he’s worried about finding the floor with his foot when he steps out of bed.

    DCSCA (e60743)

  30. An attempt a week ago to give the back story to the current fighting in Sudan.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/22/world/africa/sudan-war-international-relations.html

    Russia seems to be encouraging the worse general – it was precipitated by Egypt attempting to ensure the supremacy of the other. Lot of lying going on

    THe U.> attempted to push aside both generals, but didn’t understand the situation,

    Sammy Finkelman (0e7ef0)

  31. 27 I wrote:

    The Democrats are falsely arguing that failure to raise the debt ceiling means default, when it only means some spending will not happen in time.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8) — 4/28/2023 @ 2:54 pm

    Like bond repayments.

    Only if done on purpose. At least if that happens by more than one day,

    The Fed opposes it, but it can’t do anything to stop it. Jerome Powell is just engaging in hand waving when he says it is not realistic and that it is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. It is, in fact, the most realistic solution, and inevitable if the Fed keeps raising interest rates,

    Sammy Finkelman (0e7ef0)

  32. Otherwise we reach a situation where anything else is mathematically impossible.

    Sammy Finkelman (0e7ef0)


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