The Debt Ceiling Deal Dance


The New York Times got the Internet, and Capitol Hill phone lines, humming this afternoon by claiming inside information that “President Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner were starting to close in on a major budget deal that would enact substantial spending cuts and seek future revenues through a tax overhaul.”

(As an aside, did you know John Boehner’s middle initial was “A”?  It stands for “Andrew.”  I don’t know why the Times threw it in there, since there aren’t a lot of other John Boehners running around Washington.  It’s not that important, but out of curiosity, does the Times ever identify the President as “Barack H. Obama?”)

Within a matter of hours, everyone denied that anybody was closing in on anything.  Actually, the Times’ own story includes tons of denials, so either their sources are right and everyone else is dissembling, or it’s puzzling that they chose “Boehner and Obama Close to Deal, Leaders Are Told” as the headline.  Maybe the editors just wanted to rattle the Washington cage and see what happened.

Officials on all sides of the tense negotiations warned that no firm deal was in hand yet, and tried to play down the progress — if only to stave off attempts to block it or influence its shape by hardliners on both sides of the debate on taxes and spending.

“While we are keeping the lines of communication open, there is no ‘deal’ and no progress to report,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner.

The White House denied that any deal is imminent. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said that “there is no deal. We are not close to a deal.”

Boehner appeared on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show this afternoon to declare “there is no deal,” and once again endorse the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” plan passed by the House. 

In fact, there’s a lot of support surging through Washington for that plan.  Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) appeared on Fox News last night to stress that CCB is “the only plan on the table.”

Also strongly endorsing CCB is Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who said that… whoa, wait, hold on a second.  Is this the same Tom Coburn who released his own budget proposal earlier this week for $9 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years… then excitedly embraced his old “Gang of Six” compadres and their proposal for an absurd $3.7 trillion?

Yep, same guy.  Now Coburn says “you can’t solve our problem unless you do what ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’ wants to do.”  His logic is unassailable, if by “solve our problem” he means “stop running gigantic deficits immediately.” 

Coburn is even willing to “bet you a Porterhouse steak if it lands on [Obama’s] desk, he will sign this puppy.”  I admire his spirit, but he should probably start calling around to steakhouses in D.C. and getting prices. 

There’s no way a Democrat president will sign a pledge to cut the size of government, cap spending, and balance the budget.  It would spell the end of their political power, choking off the money they use to purchase votes.  Cut, Cap and Balance is an existential threat to them. 

Obama is not going to sign the death warrant of unsustainable socialism.  When he says “balance,” he means raising taxes, not balancing the budget.  That’s why he cooked up the new focus-grouped battle cry “balanced approach,” to describe proposals that will raise our taxes.  It’s designed to fool people who expect fiscal sanity out of Washington, and don’t otherwise pay much attention to what Obama says, much less what he does.

It was good to pass the CCB pledge.  Make the Democrats shoot it down, and explain to the public why balanced budgets and spending restraint are absolutely impossible.  Meanwhile, the Debt Ceiling Deal Dance resumes, with a quickening tempo.