The United States Congress is “Breaking Bad.” Early signals from Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, on the up coming debt ceiling and continuing budget resolution votes, should scare the hell out of everyone.
I think the “Summers” stock market bump (the market’s rose when Larry Summers withdrew his name from becoming chairman of the Federal Reserve) will end rather quickly once investors realize that the Congress is in a “Gordian Knot.” Only no one seems to know how to swiftly cut it!
The pickle House Republican leaders find themselves in is how to get to 218 votes, not once, but twice to keep the government running and not let the country default on paying its bills. Last week, a bill authored by House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, to fund the government did not even make it to the House floor for a vote. Why? The votes were not there.
A small, but vocal minority of Republican House members, are hell-bent on eliminating all funding for Obamacare. Never mind that the House has voted 41 times to kill the program, knowing that the Senate will never pass their legislation. Nor will the president ever sign the bill into law.
Speaker John Boehner, according to many reports has already met with Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader and Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader. Boehner’s message was grim. The votes are not there to extend the debt ceiling even if cuts to entitlements are attached. And, a new temporary budget resolution, which must be in place by October 1st, is in major trouble too.
After Cantor’s legislation was pulled, which included non-binding language to defund Obamacare, House leadership was forced to change strategy. Their thinking now is to focus on the debt ceiling vote first. Then address legislation to keep the government running, all by October 1st. The final strategy is scheduled for release tomorrow, September 18th.
But wait, it gets worse. Leadership, in an attempt to hit the magic 218 number, may well load the debt ceiling extension bill with all kind of goodies — from the Keystone XL pipeline to entitlement reform. Plus language may well be inserted to delay implementing Obamacare for another year. I guess the House is violating its own rules on earmarks. Political desperation makes for strange bed fellows. The budget bill would then be used to defund the healthcare law.
This strategy is a roll of the dice at best. House Republicans, who were originally told to put all their eggs in the Continuing Budget resolution basket, have moved forward with their own legislation. Representative Thomas Graves (R-GA) drafted a bill that will delay Obamacare for a year and cut government spending back even further than what Mr. Cantor proposed. The Graves approach is gathering support by the day from rank and file members.
Here’s the rub: no matter what direction the House takes, the Senate will not pass either House bill. The Congress may come full circle in a few short days and end up where they began– no legislation capable of funding the government or raising the debt ceiling.
Meanwhile the clock is ticking. Think of the giant scoreboard at a football game. Only in this case the full faith and credit of the United States is on the line. A global economic meltdown, not the end zone, is staring us right in the face.
Democrats, meanwhile, have their own cross to bear. Democratic leaders want to get rid of budget sequester. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that perhaps as many as 1 millions jobs will be lost next year when sequestration cuts government funding by another $20 billion.
However, the chess move to eliminate the budget sequester is not in the cards either. That bothers me as well, but such is reality…….for now.
What a mess. It is rather ironic that we just hit the fifth anniversary of when our economy melted down. Yet, here we are again on the verge of another self-inflicted economic disaster.
So what should citizens do, you ask?
I encourage everyone, regardless of party affiliation, to write their members of Congress with a simple message: Keep the government funded and pass a bill to raise the debt ceiling (which must be done by the middle of October). I know from experience that letters and emails make a difference. Write something from the heart. Sophistication does not matter. Do not be intimated by the task. You pay the salary of your elected officials. Your opinion counts. If you do not write, the special interests will fill the void.
Should the Congress continue “Breaking Bad” the result will likely be worse than a credit downgrade our nation experienced two years ago. Democrats and Republicans must work together and quickly. Running the government is an immense responsibility. Done poorly real people lose their jobs, their homes, and their hopes for a better life.