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Declares ‘Mistrial’

DeMint’s New Obamacare Stunt

Fresh off a humiliating shutdown defeat, the Heritage chief says Americans didn’t really OK the Affordable Care Act—as though the 2012 elections never happened. By Jamelle Bouie.

This was supposed to be Jim DeMint’s moment. As head of the Heritage Foundation, chief sponsor of Heritage Action, and founder of the Senate Conservatives Fund, he had positioned himself as the Lex Luthor of American politics, a schemer who—with the help of like-minded ideologues like Texas Senator Ted Cruz—had whipped conservatives into a frenzy. With their control of the House of Representatives, and the debt ceiling and the continuing resolution, they would defund the Affordable Care Act, and land a mortal blow to the legacy of Barack Obama.

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Former Senator Jim DeMint speaks to attendees during the Heritage Foundation Defund Obamacare Tour at the Cool Springs Marriott in Franklin, Tenn. on Thursday, August 22, 2013. (Luke Sharrett/Getty)

Strategic recklessness aside, the chief problem with the plan was that it needed a weak, feckless opposition. But Obama and the Democrats wouldn’t oblige. They held their ground, and when it became clear they would make no concessions, the scheme fell apart.

But rather than concede and move on, DeMint has redoubled his efforts to dislodge the president’s health-care law. To wit, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, he announced he will “continue to fight” to “protect the American people from the harmful effects of the law.”

The Morning After

5 Facts About the Debt Deal

After 16 days of gridlock, Congress finally settled on a deal to end the government shutdown and avoid a default on the national debt. Here are the five things you need to know about the bill

It was touch and go there for a while but Congress has finally done it! At the eleventh hour a budget deal was passed to end the government shutdown and avoid default before the October 17 debt ceiling deadline. Granted, not everyone was on board. Rep. Paul Ryan and Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz defiantly—though ultimately symbolically—opposed the bill that President Obama signed eagerly with the promise of reopening the government “immediately.” So what else is in this stop-gap legislation?

National Park Worker Removes a Closed Sign

A National Park worker removes a closed sign at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial after it was re-opened to the public in Washington on October 17, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The Government Shutdown is Over

The Republican strategy of obstruction collapsed in a late deal that averted default and re-opened the government. Ben Jacobs reports on how the party surrendered.

The government shutdown did not end with a bang or even a whimper. Instead, it ended with a stenographer screaming about the freemasons.

After the Senate approved the Reid-McConnell deal by a vote of 81-18, the bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling quickly moved over to the House, skipping all procedural hurdles as it raced towards approval. It was finally passed by a vote of 285-144, with every Democrat voting in favor but more than 60% of House Republicans still opposed.

An assessment of how other countries reported on the U.S. government shutdown.

The final approval of the bill was punctuated by a House stenographer who, as the vote was winding down, ascended the podium and started shouting. The stenographer, who has been identified by other outlets as Dianne Reidy, "had kind of a crazed look" in her eyes according to Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX).  The microphones in the chamber were off during the vote so that what she was saying was unintelligible on the floor. However, after she was escorted out of the House chamber by several staffers, she shouted: "He will not be mocked!" referring, presumably, to God. She went on to proclaim that the United States "was not one nation under God, had it been, the Constitution would not have been written by freemasons. They go against God. You cannot serve two masters. Praise be to God. Lord Jesus Christ."

Her outburst visibly disturbed a number of members and staffers, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), both of whom ran out of the chamber after her.

Crisis, Repeat

Toxic Groundhog Day

So we’re on the brink of default, with our AAA credit rating at risk and House radicals rushing for the fiscal cliff. Sound familiar? It’s just like August 2011—and Congress hasn’t learned a thing, says John Avlon.

Welcome to Groundhog Day, with the hefty rodents on Capitol Hill scurrying toward another fiscal cliff.

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Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Elena Scotti

Inflicted with extreme ideology—causing an acute sense of superiority that peaks just before impact—50 or so folks on the far right have decided to take the nation with them. This is not just government by crisis. This is government by tantrum.

Just before House Speaker John Boehner admitted impotence and announced he didn’t have the votes to pass a House Republican bill Tuesday night, the fiscal markets offered their own verdict. Fitch Ratings announced that it was placing America’s AAA rating on a rating watch negative.

Sickening Day

Capitol Hill Chaos

Tuesday might have ended with the Senate on the cusp of a deal to avert a default, but it also featured Boehner bowing and scraping to his House crazies to come up with a competing plan that failed. Michael Tomasky on the horror.

This is a sad and sickening spectacle, like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life. Not as bad as Watergate, you say? I beg to differ. However this turns out—and there were reports as I was writing Tuesday night that the House might finally run up the white flag here—this has been in its way worse than Watergate. Watergate ultimately vindicated our system against the machinations of one sociopath. It took time, because he was a president. But even he ultimately observed democratic norms and, when cornered, did the honorable thing.

The shutdown according to everyone else.

Today, we have a clavern of sociopaths who know nothing of honor, and we have no easy way to stop them. Except at the ballot box. Except that they’ve rigged that, too, with their House districts. They’ve rigged the whole game so that they light the match and then point at President Obama and shout: “Look! Fire!” And overseeing it all is House Speaker John Boehner, as of Tuesday officially the worst high-ranking elected officer in the history of the United States.

I know, there’s been a congeries of drunkards and rapists I can barely imagine. I don’t care. Boehner is worse than all of them. Let’s review what happened Tuesday.

Debt Chaos

Tea Party Donor Freakout

Business leaders warned about the dire consequences of default, but in some ways they got what they paid for—they overwhelmingly backed GOP congressional candidates in 2012, including Ted Cruz.

At the very moment that congressional negotiations over the debt ceiling broke down Tuesday, a group of business and economic experts were issuing a dire warning to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and nine other Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee about what will happen if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling this week.

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Douglas Graham/Getty

“It would be a recovery killer,” said Scott Talbott, senior vice president of public policy at the Financial Services Roundtable. “Whatever recovery we’re experiencing now, it may be modest, slow, and we may be bouncing along the bottom, but at least we’re moving in the right direction. A default, a real default, would halt that and reverse it.”

James Chessen, chief economist for the American Bankers Association, told the panel, “If there is actually a default, that will send ripples through the economy that will not only affect the credibility of the United States but every business decision that is made here.”

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Still No Debt Ceiling Deal In DC

Start buying gold, stockpiling guns and getting acquainted with the taste of human flesh—the United States may hit the debt ceiling.

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

After Tuesday started with a potential deal negotiated by Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in the Senate, Speaker John Boehner tried to counter with his own proposal out of the House. Boehner's bill would have raised the debt ceiling through early February and reopened the government through December 14. In return, it would prevent the Treasury form taking any "extraordinary measures" to avoid default, implement the Vitter Amendment to prevent congressional staff from getting employer subsdized health care and set the stage for a Christmas fight over contraception

The bill seemed to be derailed once Heritage Action, the powerful right wing organization headed by former Senator Jim DeMint announced it would oppose the bill. Within 15 minutes of that news, a planned meeting of the House Rules Committee to set the terms of the debate was cancelled. Just as it was set to start, Pete Sessions, the chair of the Rules Committee announced the delay, saying members needed more time to call their constitutents to avoid "misunderstanding." Within two hours, Republicans announced they were going home for the day and would try again tomorrow.

Fall Awakening

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

Sorry to be the pessimist, but even if Congress reopens the government and agrees on lifting the debt ceiling, we’re in for a rocky ride come the new year. Welcome to the year of the groundhog. By Daniel Gross

The budget wars are almost over! Long live the budget wars!

On Monday night the contours of a deal to defuse the ticking fiscal bomb emerged in the Senate. The government would reopen and stay funded through January, and the debt ceiling would be increased to get the nation through February. The Affordable Care Act would remain essentially intact. The two houses of Congress would agree to hold talks about long-term budget deficits. In other words – take two delays and agree to keep arguing over the same topics in the morning.

Tuesday, the House GOP reacted to the emerging deal by throwing its usual fit. But the histrionics in that caucus are simply a prelude to an ultimate cave. In the end, as he always does, Boehner will turn to Democrats and the minority of sane Republicans to pass a crisis-defusing deal. Whether a resolution comes today, Wednesday, or Thursday, it is likely to closely resemble the nascent Senate deal.


Debt Deal

It’s Not Over Yet

Congress is heaving a sigh of relief over a reported deal to avert a default—but the crisis is nowhere near ended. David Frum on why the ruthless politics won’t stop until the larger crisis in American life finds some resolution.

Like the atomic bomb in a James Bond movie, the debt ceiling crisis seems to have been averted with only minutes remaining on the countdown clock. A lot could still go wrong. But sighs of relief are being heard from Congress and from Wall Street. The S&P 500 has gained more than 2 percent over the past week.

Budget Battle

Evan Vucci/AP

We can all welcome the last-minute decision by Republicans in Congress to halt a confrontation that threatened to blow up the world financial system. It’s important to understand, however, that even if all goes as agreed—even if the debt ceiling is raised and the government shutdown ended—this crisis has nowhere near ended.

The crisis will be a long time ending because it was a long time starting. The crisis did not start 15 days ago. It did not start with Sen. Ted Cruz. And it won’t be ended by a back-room deal.

Debt Disaster

It’s Much Worse Than 2008

Don’t let the Excel-and-PowerPoint set fool you into thinking blowing through the debt limit is no big deal. The tsunami of value destruction would dwarf the Lehman Brothers implosion, says Daniel Gross.

Generals always fight the last war. And financial analysts always analyze the last crisis. So with the rapid approach of the October 17 debt-limit deadline, it’s no surprise the Excel-and-Powerpoint set are dusting off their histories of the Lehman Brothers debacle. Many Republicans may view blowing through the debt limit and potentially missing a few interest payments as no big deal. In a Pew Research Center poll released Monday, 54 percent of Republicans said the U.S. could go through the debt limit without major problems. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) said not raising the debt ceiling would be a positive. “I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets,” he said.

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Pascal Preti/Getty

But the giant conventional wisdom machine, of which I’m an integral cog, believes not raising the debt ceiling would be awful. It would be so bad it would dwarf the Lehman Brothers debacle. When the highly leveraged but poorly run investment bank was allowed to fail in September 2008, it triggered a lot of unexpected damage. The money-market fund industry nearly collapsed, as many money-market funds had Lehman Brothers commercial paper. Banks and financial institutions stopped lending to each other overnight. Trade financing froze. The stock market fell 28 percent in a few weeks.

A U.S. debt default, or the whiff of one, would be a much more significant financial event. As Yalman Onaran of Bloomberg noted, “The $12 trillion of outstanding government debt is 23 times the $517 billion Lehman owed when it filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008.” True. But the increase in damage wouldn’t be arithmetic, it would be exponential—Lehman to the 10th power rather than Lehman times ten. A debt default, even if momentary and partial, wouldn’t be like blowing up a much bigger stick of dynamite. As Warren Buffett suggests, it would be like detonating a nuclear bomb.

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The Debt Ceiling Denialists

A clique of GOP lawmakers say the debt ceiling crisis is a hoax. They could tank the economy and make a deal impossible, writes Patricia Murphy.

Worried about the looming debt ceiling crisis and possible default of the nation’s debt? Don’t be! According to more than a few GOP lawmakers, conservative donors, and Tea Party activists, the nation’s debt ceiling doesn’t really exist and the chances of a default on the United States’ sovereign debt lie somewhere between unlikely and impossible.

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Getty (2); AP

The default-is-a-hoax sentiment inside conservative circles is real and could have serious ramifications for the economy as a whole. While House Speaker John Boehner continues his hunt for enough votes just to re-open the federal government, the growing chorus of default deniers in the House and Senate could make striking a deal to increase the debt ceiling this month next to impossible.

Below are 10 of the latest naysayers:

inside the policymaking machine