Proving that there’s nothing certain except death and taxes, White House press secretary Jay Carney him-hawed over whether or not President Barack Obama would accept a short-term fix to the nation’s budget and debt problems. When a fast-and-furious meeting took place yesterday, White House and Congressional officials saw progress toward a deal to reopen the government and fund the debt. Rocketing up over 300 points, the Dow Jones Industrials mirrored the mood on the street about a potential deal, decidedly more optimistic. Fears over a possible Oct. 17 default plunged the Dow of 800 points in the last few weeks. Expectations of a deal buoyed traders while investors swooped in to buy stocks. “If a clean bill is passed he [Obama] would likely sign it,” said Carney at yesterday’s White House briefing. Today Carney expressed disappointment with a short-term fix.
While talking tough over the last 12 days, Obama gave no indication he was willing to play ball with Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) insisted that the GOP only looked for a “conversation,” not the kind of stonewalling that left Republicans reeling. “It has never been our desired outcome that Congress only reopen the government for a short term or Congress only lift the debt ceiling for a short term,” said Carney, hinting that Obama might not sign a short-term deal. Hoping to win more concessions with the GOP, Carney cleverly played both sides against the middle. Since the government shutdown Oct. 1, Obama found out the hard way what happens when a determined GOP minority gets its way. Boehner’s Tea Party faction refused to give into public pressure, opposing Obamacare with a kind of religious fervor not seen since civil rights movement.
Carney conveyed Obama’s disappointment with a short-term deal but stopped short saying he wouldn’t sign it. Worried about the GOP sabotaging Obamacare, Barack took a forceful will-not-negotiate tone when all he really had to do was signal he was willing to talk to the GOP. Boehner looked for any bone the president was willing to toss Republicans. When no bones were forthcoming, the Tea Party went into overkill to get their point across. While no one in the Tea Party likes Obamacare—or any entitlement for that matter—the president had a range of negotiating options, including a one-year moratorium on the medical device tax. Intended as revenue enhancer to help fund Obamacare, Barack should have shown more flexibility to GOP demands. On completely unrelated matter, Barack could have reconsidered the Keystone XL pipeline, a pet peeve of Republicans.
All indications point toward a short-term deal with a face-saving way out mainly for Republicans. While the public blames Republicans more than Democrats, Obama has also taken a hit. Congressional approval ratings, including Republicans and Democrats, run about 11%, putting the GOP on shaky ground for next year’s midterm elections. “So is it still acceptable as the bare minimum? Sure,” said Carney, admitting that Obama will most likely sign a short-term deal. Regardless of the Tea Party’s attempt to sabotage Obamacare, it’s up to the president to work on developing the kinds of relationships that might have avoided the current gridlock. Letting the crisis drag on for nearly two weeks harmed U.S. credibility in the eyes of world markets. Things got so bad that Secretary of State John Kerry had to reassure foreign leaders at the Asian Pacific Economic Conference in Brunei.
GOP leaders under Boehner let their egos get so far out of hand they were prepared to default the U.S. government. Anger at Obama, over his unwillingness to negotiate, got so viral that Boehner allowed the Tea Party to potentially default the U.S. government. House Tea Party Leader Rep. Steven King (R-Iowa) started to argue that default wouldn’t be all that bad for the U.S. government, explaining the Treasury would have enough cash-flow to prioritize its bills. Under Boehner’s leadership, the Obama-hating crowd ignored their oath of office and were prepared to take vindictive action over their Constitutional duty. No elected officials, sworn to uphold the Constitution and defend the Union, can justify defaulting the U.S. government under any circumstances. Boehner should be have been considering contempt of Congress citations to unruly Tea Party members.
Hinting that the president still has trouble with GOP proposals to resolve the impasse doesn’t tell the real story. “The president has, you know, a number of concerns with the proposal,” insisted Carney, despite knowing he’d sign, at this point, a short-term budget and debt-ceiling deal. White House officials now understand the potential for anarchy among Tea Party zealots in the House. As long as they can hold the White House hostage, they’re likely to assert their power. Obama’s best way out is to work feverishly on developing better rapport with Boehner and other Congressional leaders to avoid a recurrence. While stark differences remain between Republicans and Democrats, Obama must find some concessions for the GOP. Offering Republicans the chance to reclaim the Keystone XL pipeline or temporarily rescind the tax on medical devices would be a good start.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.