Thursday, January 24, 2013

Likely Republican Strategy on the Debt Ceiling Debate

Like many political wonks, I have been watching with anticipation to see how the Republicans would handle the debt ceiling. Their strategy has to change over what it had been in the past. They can't keep being the "party of no" and gain any support with the public. As long as they are perceived to be against President Obama instead of for anything, they are loosing popularity among the very people necessary to bring them into power or maintain power in the House.

They seem to be settling on an idea of delaying and refocusing the debate instead of simply being the "party of no". They managed, with the help of the Democrats, to pass a bill allowing the debt ceiling to be raised with little or no fuss. The bill didn't please all the Republicans, and it didn't please even half of the Democrats, but there was enough support to get it through the house and allow the conversation to move onto something else.

Politico reports:
This debt ceiling bill garnered widespread support from conservatives, but there were still skeptics, and Democratic support was needed to pass the measure. In all, 199 Republicans and 86 Democrats voted for the bill; 33 Republicans and 111 Democrats voted no.
 So about 87% of Republicans and about 44% or Democrats were willing to vote yes on this particular bill. While that isn't exactly a united Republican front, it is good enough to move the conversation back a few months. With the debt ceiling off the table, the Republicans are free to do what they do best without looking like obstructionists: fight the President and Democrats on spending.

Yet they have gained something without really risking anything. They don't have to try to hold the debt ceiling hostage, they will revisit it in a few months. When they revisit it, that will soak up time and give them another chance to try to get the public on their side. And even if they never are able to get the public on their side, they still gain ground by taking up valuable time on the House floor raising the debt limit over and over again on a short term basis only. By spending all their time only passing temporary measures, they successfully block other legislation by not having time to do anything else while at the same time keeping the conversation where they want it to be.

In my opinion, this is a very smart move by the Republicans. I'll be interested to see how it turns out, and what the Democratic response to it might be.

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