There is actually a logic to GOP House Speaker John Boehner’s refusal to allow a vote on a clean continuing resolution to fund the federal government and end the shutdown: The alternative is to have a fight over raising the debt ceiling and risk a US default.
The original pretext for refusing to raise the debt limit, the deficit, has gone. The US deficit is on track to fall to $642 billion this year. If this happens, it will be the first deficit less than a trillion dollars since George W. Bush and the Wall Street banks blew up the economy.
While $642 is still too big for a long term deficit, it is not much different to the deficits of $400-500 billion that George W. Bush created with the help of a Republican Congress and a fake case for starting a war in Iraq.
The demand for raising the deficit ceiling is essentially the same as the demand for ending the shutdown: Democrats must agree to the entire Tea Party platform except for a federal ban on abortion, and you can be certain they would ask for that as well in the next round of hostage taking.
The Republicans are like a small child who has found a hand grenade and is threatening to pull out the pin unless they get a ride on a magic flying pony. It is not only the absurd demands that make the situation dangerous: It is the obvious fact that they don’t have the slightest understanding of what the consequences of making good on their threat would be.
Boehner’s strategy is to stop the children from pulling the pin on the grenade by letting them play with matches. Whether that is a good idea depends on whether you think the children are serious about the grenade. Boehner seems to think they are serious, so does Obama.
Anyone arguing that Obama should have done this or that or the other to keep the Republicans in line is missing the fact that the Republican party radicals are simply not responsive to logic. They were not ‘emboldened’ by Obama’s ‘surrender’ in 2011: That crisis was created because the lunatics had already taken the country hostage.
The Treasury estimates that it will run out of money around October 17th unless the debt ceiling is raised. Nobody expects Obama to capitulate on the government shutdown without a deal that includes raising the debt ceiling. The longer the shutdown continues, the harder it is for Republicans to argue that Obama will be forced to negotiate with them.
Some House Republicans are already heading for the exits on the shutdown crisis. It is really hard to see them swigging another dose of the Kool-Aid and blocking the debt limit increase a week later. Then again, crazy does not follow any particular logic.