Senate Debt Ceiling Deal Won’t Mean This Chaos Is Over. Far From It.
Michael Tomasky on the sickening spectacle of the dueling Senate and House bills on Tuesday—and Boehner’s weakness.
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.
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.
In the morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were on the cusp of a deal. McConnell got a couple of mild Obamacare concessions in there. The thinking was that those concessions would placate the non-crazy GOP wing in the House, that Boehner would let the Senate compromise pass, and we’d be out of this by now.
But no. The House crazies rose up in fury. The Senate bill was a sellout. And of course, the moment they said, “Jump,” Boehner said, “How high,” and so he and his people started crafting a bill that that was more extreme and, in its way, far sillier. They ended up inserting language that had the effect of making their own employees pay more for their own health care. This in itself was based on a lie that spread through right-wing media in recent weeks, that congressional employees were receiving some special benefit under Obamacare, which was completely not true. But that didn’t matter. Rush Limbaugh was saying otherwise.
So Boehner came up with a bill that was extreme, stupid, and based on a lie. Now, those three adjectives ought to be mother’s milk to Jim DeMint, who is nothing if not extreme, stupid, and a liar. But DeMint, head of the Heritage Foundation, said “no.” Not extreme enough. Doesn’t do enough to dismantle Obamacare. Remember when DeMint was a senator, he vowed that Obamacare would be the president’s Waterloo. He couldn’t do it then, so he wants to do it now. And anyway, Boehner didn’t have the votes to pass his extreme, stupid, and mendacious bill, because it wasn’t extreme, stupid, and mendacious enough.
Now. This is where a leader would have stood up and said, “Stuff it.” No. Actually, before. Tuesday morning, when his crazies revolted at the Reid-McConnell plan, a leader would have stood up and said, “Enough. Enough, enough, enough. We’re voting on the Senate plan.”
That is now apparently what the House is going to do. And that’s good. We’ll avoid default for now, I suppose, although with these people, nothing is final until it’s final. But this could have been solved days ago. It could have been solved before it even began. There’s only one reason it didn’t: Boehner is a weakling. And a liar. He lied to Reid. He told Reid, according to reports that I’ve not seen challenged or contradicted, that if Reid passed a resolution at sequester-spending levels, he’d get it to House floor. Reid did his part. Boehner immediately reneged because his extremists wanted more.
That he’s a weakling is obvious to everyone, especially to the crazies. I don’t know what he thinks he’s bought in these last two weeks in his caucus. If I were a Tea Party person, I’d have nothing but contempt for him, for how easily I and 35 others were able to lead him around by the nose. I’d have no respect for him at all. I’d probably be thinking: If we’d skipped this whole nonsense, we’d have had a two-week field day making fun of the embarrassing implementation of Obamacare!
Meanwhile, let’s switch part of our brains back to Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. Assuming the House passes the Reid-McConnell bill, the Senate would still have to pass it, too. And to pass it by midnight October 17, senators would have to do so on an expedited calendar. To expedite the calendar in the Senate requires something called unanimous consent, and unanimous means unanimous.
Will Cruz and Lee agree? I am so sick and tired of trying to get inside these psychotic people’s brains that I can’t even complete this paragraph. Who knows.
This is the worst it’s ever been in modern America. But it is going to get worse. They aren’t going to stop hating Obama and Obamacare. They aren’t suddenly going to decide to make their peace with him or it. They sure aren’t going to decide that gee, using default as leverage is naughty. A big chunk of them want the United States to default on Obama’s watch, so they can then blame him for what they themselves caused, say, “The black guy wrecked the economy. Couldn’t you have predicted it?” New horrors await us that you and I, being normal people, can’t begin to dream up. But rest assured, they will.