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Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah! Congress Passes Clean Debt Ceiling Hike
"Zip-a-dee-doo-dah zip-a-dee-ay, my oh my what a wonderful day, plenty of sunshine coming my way..."
The words of House Speaker John Boehner drew a chuckle as he exited the press corps Wednesday, after announcing that the House had passed a clean debt ceiling.
Yes, a clean debt ceiling.
Historically, raising the debt ceiling has been a matter of course, and nothing close to newsworthy. In fact, Dubya raised the debt ceiling 17 times with little fan-fare. After all, raising the debt ceiling is simply Beltway parlance for making the minimum payment on your credit card.
So why is it newsworthy this time? Because so rarely these days is congress willing to do even the bare minimum without taking the country to the brink of financial meltdown. What changed?
In recent weeks, conservatives held a summit to game-plan the debt ceiling. They whittled their options down to two, yet were unable to gain consensus. Some wanted to tie the debt ceiling to approval of the Keystone XL, others demanded a repeal of ACA risk corridors. Given that House Dems would support neither, the GOP would need to supply all 218 yeas required for passage. Conservatives were unable to come to an agreement, as Tea Party extremists felt that neither demand would be sufficient.
Yes, the same Tea Party extremists who shut down the government only a few short months ago. Had they gotten their way, they would've raised the debt ceiling with an amendment (for instance) that would result in a full repeal of Obamacare. The senate would've stripped the amendment and sent it back to the house, who would then either agree to a clean debt ceiling hike or shut the whole damn thing down again.
And what of the senate? Ted Cruz chose to filibuster, which forced republican colleagues and party leaders Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn (both facing primary challengers) to change their votes and go on record in favor of a clean debt ceiling hike. The adults left in the Republican party did not want to see the GOP blamed for yet another government shutdown, and took one for the team. Because Ted Cruz.
How was Boehner able convince house republicans to stop hugging-up to the hot stove they seem intent on cuddling up with? Has he finally taken control of his raucous caucus?
"Boehner Caves to Obama", and "Boehner Slaps Down Tea Party", read the headlines.
In fact, Boehner was able to convince his members to instead focus on this years' mid-term election. With a new budget, a farm bill, and the debt ceiling out of the way, the schedule is clear for the remainder of the year. No immigration, no jobs bill, no infrastructure bill, no nada.
Congress has cleared it's schedule, and from now till November all we will hear about is Obamacare and income inequality - the dueling story-lines of the coming election.