Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has arguably the worst job in Washington. When the House of Representatives returns from August recess on Sept. 9, Boehner will have just 21 days (only nine of them working days) to find a way to pass a fiscal year 2014 government funding resolution. Shortly after that, Boehner will also have to raise the Treasury Department’s borrowing limit, and the wealthy Republican donor class are also pressuring Boehner to pass immigration reform that grants amnesty to current illegal immigrants and expands guest worker programs to create new ones.
First and long
The vast majority of Boehner’s caucus don’t want to pass any of these items, at least not before major concessions from President Obama. On the continuing resolution needed to fund the government, 80 House Republicans singed a letter to Boehner urging him “to affirmatively defund the implementation and enforcement of ObamaCare in any relevant appropriations bills brought to the House floor.” On the debt limit, Boehner himself is still saying Obama must agree to a dollar’s worth of spending cuts for every new dollar in borrowing authority. And while there is consensus among Republicans for expanding high-skill immigration, amnesty for current illegal immigrants, and importing future illegal immigrants through low-skill guest worker programs, is a non-starter.
Punting on first down
Boehner’s first move apparently will be to punt the CR debate into October or November by passing a short-term CR that funds the government at current sequestration spending levels. Boehner said as much on a conference call yesterday. Then Boehner will probably call for a clean vote on the debt limit, just like he did in 2011. That vote failed spectacularly, with 82 Democrats joining all Republicans against giving Obama a no-limit credit card. Having established that it is politically impossible to pass a clean debt limit increase, as Obama has called for, Boehner will then attempt to negotiate with the White House, and Senate Democrats on the debt limit.
Three yards and a cloud of dust
At that point, everything will be on the table. The CR, the sequester, entitlement reform, tax hikes, immigration reform, the debt limit, really everything currently being debated in Washington will be up for discussion. By combining everything into one massive kludge, Boehner hopes he can find a sweet spot among his caucus that could produce a unified position. That unified position could include a year’s delay in implementing the individual mandate, cutting Social Security spending by adopting the chained CPI, a vote on parts of immigration reform, or even a delay in paying Obamacare insurance subsidies until the legally required anti-fraud and privacy protections are in place.
House leadership honestly has no idea what a final acceptable deal will look like. And neither will anyone else until the last possible second either.
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