Saturday, September 28, 2013

House Follies

So the House is going to apparently pass, on another party-line vote, another doomed CR -- this one delaying the ACA for a year.

Two quick points: I do wonder what that actually means, in legislative language -- what happens to already-implemented items? Does implementation preparation proceed? Obviously, it doesn't matter, since it's not going to happen, but still presumably there will be a bill...

More to the point, though, is this gem from Robert Costa's reporting:

[F]or now, Boehner doesn’t have a plan beyond passing this resolution and waiting to see what happens
Given that there's zero chance that the Senate will go along...really?

Perhaps it's just that Boehner has a plan, but isn't telling anyone. If not...well, if it's really true he hasn't thought throgh the next step, then he really doesn't deserve to be Speaker.



  1. "And who knows -- the pig might learn to sing!"

  2. Does this change your anti-insanity analysis from earlier this week at all? Can the Senate send back another clean CR fast enough that we could actually avoid the shutdown or not?

  3. "Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,"

    1. Amen. Though I can't remember which Beatles song this is from.

    2. It's the most (ab)used quote going from Yeats' The Second Coming. Hell, I've seen people citing it when their local Dairy Queen shutters....

    3. Right--I remember that Yeats band. Heard them at the Abbey Theatre. My favorite was their big hit "Maude's Gone."

  4. Generous reading would be that he's decided a shutdown really is preferable to another fight over the debt ceiling, & is setting up his party to ultimately roll over on both.

    1. That's my analysis too. I'd add that this decision is based on perception that the Tea Party needs to see the results of a shutdown. The Tea Party thinks it can win if only they don't blink. That belief has to be tested and shown as true (the Dems cave) or false (the Tea Party caves). Let the test begin!

    2. I have a theory that Pelosi has set a price for cooperation. There was a little comment on that much earlier in the week - that she would really like Boehner to put the immigration bill up for a vote.

      That would put him between a rock and a hard place. He could buckle and pass the clean CR, and immigration, and then what would his caucus do about the debt limit? Blow everything sky-high.

      So I'm thinking we're in for a three-week shut down, if Reid keeps his word and holds his line. The House and the Senate will keep bouncing the ball, I mean bill, back and forth, the Republican will look really juvenile and incompetent, and then the House will pass a clean CR, a clean debt limit, and immigration.

    3. 6:03 Anon again.
      Where would Pelosi's leverage come from? If it turns out to be correct that yelling at the Democrats doesn't convince them to give the Republicans what they want, then the only thing Boehner could do is try to pass the clean CR and debt limit raise. It is absolutely true that he will not be able to do that without Pelosi's help.

      Considering how much work Pelosi put into the health care bill, how much it reflects her beliefs, how much California needs it, the possibility that she would support anything to delay or weaken it is zero.

      And she wants immigration reform. Again, she's from freakin' California.

      But... if Boehner's going to pass anything here with the help of the Democrats, he's only going to be able to do it once. And if that's her price, then he'll have to pay it.

  5. He's given up fighting the crazy caucus for now.

    He's doing everything they want so that things can blow up in their face, but he also wants the bill to be in the Senate's hands when the shutdown happens so that maybe he can try to make an argument that the Democrats are the ones who really want a shutdown.

    He'll do a cave once the pain of a shutdown gets bad enough.

  6. I guess that temporarily appeasing fascist morons is one way to spend $2.1B, the approximate cost of a govt shutdown.

  7. I wonder what would happen if Boehner chose this weekend to resign the speakership, perhaps blaming the dunderheads.

    1. As tempting as that might be, doesn't he make himself even a bigger target. He'd be like the general who deserted on the eve of battle. That's so dishonorable, I don't think he'll do it.

  8. Saw an item suggesting that the GOP could win a shutdown this time, thanks to their multimedia wind machine that was not so robust as in the Clinton era shutdown. They may be encouraged by polls showing that both parties will be blamed. When the government shuts down on Tues. may be the moment for Obama to get even more publicly aggressive.

  9. JB: how long do you think the shutdown lasts? I think 3 weeks ish

  10. I think we've all been overlooking some important data here:

    1) A relatively successful Obamacare implementation is probably critical to the near-term viability of the Democratic policy agenda;

    2) Outside of those directly helped, very few are especially confident about Obamacare today, and

    3) Many/most of the "must haves" for Obamacare to succeed (young healthies signing up, people being patient with restricted access associated with lower cost, etc) are a direct consequence of public perception of the plan.

    The conclusion that Boehner must be crazy follows from the fact that there is absolutely no way the Dems will cave on Obamacare. Let's set aside for a second the fact that the Dems have already caved on several aspects (e.g. delaying mandates) of the bill.

    Every day for the next few weeks, the creeping danger of the shutdown will be directly attributable to the Dems' unwillingness to cave (more) on Obamacare.

    Y'all think Boehner's crazy for thinking the Dems will cave even more on Obamacare?

    He might end up being wrong.

    His position sure as heck isn't crazy though.

    1. @purusha - you may be right about Republican ideology, of course. You should consider advancing that argument over at The Corner or someplace like that.

      Much bigger impact than in a mostly-sympathetic place such as this.

    2. It's hard to have an impact on people who are blind, deaf, and dumb.

    3. Surely you must easily be able to come up with a million better things to do than lament the blindness, deafness and dumbness of the blind, deaf and dumb.

    4. See, CSH, you and I have a clear difference in opinion on how things will progress. You think that "the creeping danger of the shutdown will be directly attributable to the Dems' unwillingness to cave (more) on Obamacare," whereas I think that the nearly inevitable shutdown will make Boehner look juvenile and incompetent, because the House can't get its basic job done without throwing a temper tantrum to get some (conservative) goodies.

      So now we'll see which one is more true.

    5. Different Anon here: I think the GOP would be in trouble using this strategy, no matter what they were targeting. On top of that, if/when Obamacare runs into actual implementation problems it's not going to be immediately evident. Maybe by Nov 2014, it'll be obvious that there are serious problems with the law and the Democrats will be damaged politically in the midterms. The Democrats don't have any incentive right now to break ranks, and actually have a disincentive in the sense that Dem disunity over the law might negatively impact public perception of it and turn it into the political liability that the GOP pretend it is. Again, maybe you're right and the law ends up being a disaster. We'll see fallout from that in Nov 2014. Right now the GOP tactic has nothing to do with Obamacare, and everything to do with the GOP itself.

    6. @csh, you're misreading developments if you think the Dems have caved by delaying some mandates. That wasn't caving at all. They did those things to smooth the implementation, and a less rocky implementation is for their own advantage.

      What would it take for the Dems to cave? Well, if Assad rounded up all his weapons... oh, wrong longshot hypothetical.

      The Dems won't cave unless huge non-Tea Party crowds come onto the streets. If Dems cave now, they'll be steamrolled by the GOP for years. Their election victory in 2012 will mean nothing, and it will send the message that the Dems are so ineffectual that they need House, Senate, and Presidency just to hold their own.

      Also notice how Dems aren't screaming wolf over the shutdown. They're going to let it happen, hold tight, and let the pressure build on the guys who are really causing the shutdown.

    7. Thanks for the comments guys, I take your points, all I'd emphasize here is one point made above: there's nothing inherently wrong with the ACA (well, I believe Congress/the WH got some details wrong, but the legislation itself is not a bad idea). However, the ACA will stand or fall almost entirely based on how folks perceive it.

      So its true, as has been said here often, that it is totally unjustified for the Republicans to hold up a debt ceiling vote based on already-passed legislation. Totally horrible. However, with every day that passes, the thing that is keeping the government closed is Democratic unwillingness to bend on Obamacare. That won't bode well for the equity of Obamacare, which equity is critical for its success.

      Especially as the shutdown starts to move into a second week, I feel like this factor grows increasingly relevant. They say they won't cave now.

      But these issues won't feel anywhere near the same in a couple of weeks.

    8. "However, with every day that passes, the thing that is keeping the government closed is Democratic unwillingness to bend on Obamacare. That won't bode well for the equity of Obamacare, which equity is critical for its success."

      That first sentence isn't true, and isn't likely to be how most voters will perceive it. I think the obvious reaction most people have is "why are we still talking about Obamacare?"

      But the second sentence is absolutely false. Democrats are willing to bet everything on Obamacare? Government shutdown? The full faith and credit of our country? That's a tremendous vote of confidence in Obamacare. Oh, Republicans are willing to bet just as much to shut it down before it even starts? That means Republicans are afraid people will like it.

      Besides, the enrollment period for 2014 is still supposed to start on schedule, right? Unless you're expecting Dems to cave before Tuesday, it's simply too late to stop the exchanges. We're supposed to let people sign up for health insurance, and then leave them uninsured in 2014? All the states and insurance companies that are going along with this system--screw them over at the last minute? Not happening.

    9. Okay, it's not crazy to think that Dems could cave on the medical devices tax or something like that. However, the longer this crisis goes on, the smaller potential Democratic concessions will get. Months ago, if you told me that the individual mandate would get delayed for a year, but the exchanges and subsidies would stay in place, I would be unsurprised. That outcome is unthinkable today.

      At this point, Obama and the Democrats know that giving into Cruz's terrorism would be the end of the welfare state, if not of our constitutional form of government. Chait is right about this, and I strongly suspect that Obama and Reid are thinking along the same lines.

      Furthermore, if Democrats cave on Obamacare, that would constitute an "admission" that 1) Obamacare was bad policy and 2) the GOP is reasonable to defund/delay it as a concession in shutdown/debt fights. In other words, Democrats might lose seats if ACA goes into effect and its a disaster, but they definitely will lose both houses of Congress in 2014 and Ted Cruz will be our next president if they cave. (I can't predict how the public will react to a shutdown, but I'll rule out one possibility--that Democrats cave and the public blames the GOP and rewards the Democrats. However much the Democrats suffer in the upcoming battle, it is an absolutely certainty that they will suffer MORE if they cave.)

      Even if public opinion turns against Dems as the shutdown continues, if ACA is enacted and it works (which it probably though not certainly will) the public will likely look back on the shutdown fight differently by next November.

      That could even be the case if the federal ACA exchanges "fail" in some way but some states manage to get it right--meaning that all the other states will be under pressure to do better.

      On the other side of the aisle, I don't think the incentives work the same way. (It's not a true zero-sum game in that most representatives care more about their own seats than the power of their party in the abstract). First of all, the GOP could easily lose on Obamcare and still win next November or in 2016. Secondly, a lot of GOPers are probably in WORSE shape if Ted Cruz's strategy works. I mean, if Cruz is vindicated here, there won't be any limit to primary challenges. No one who doesn't pledge to absolute loyalty to Cruz/Limbaugh/Club for Growth etc would have a prayer of surviving a GOP primary ever again.

      CSH, you aren't crazy, but you've utterly misunderstood the Democrats incentives here, if not the Republicans as well. (If a professional like Boehner believes as you do then he is crazy. I don't think he does, though.) For Dems to give in here would be to give in on everything, even their own individual careers. If you don't see Democrats screaming and yelling so much this time around, that's because its so unthinkable that they'll cave on the core of ACA that there really isn't much need for posturing.

      You say it will look different as the fight continues. In a sense you're right--the stakes will get bigger for Democrats as the fight goes on, which is why it would have been in conservatives interest to negotiate sooner rather than later.

    10. A third anon here: I also think CSH is nuts if s/he thinks the public at large is going to frame this as "the thing that is keeping the government closed is Democratic unwillingness to bend on Obamacare." I may be wrong, but I think typically in a situation like this, low information voters look to whoever is trying to pass something "clean" and assume they're the more reasonable ones. And then there's the additional factor that Obamacare is so well known as Obama's signature achievement. Even people not following closely are going to get that it's absurd to expect him to sign anything into law that destroys it. I just don't see this having the bad optics for Democrats that CSH thinks it might.

    11. Anons, Please start picking screen names. It's easy. Where is says "Select profile," choose "Name/URL," and fill in a name. There's no registering or anything time-consuming.

    12. Now my main message. If you boil down the argument "The Dems are causing the shutdown," it's the mirror image of the argument "The GOP is causing the shutdown." I show this here.

      However, if you frame the argument as "who is threatening to shutdown government to pass legislation they could get otherwise," it's clear that the GOP is at fault because it's trying to get a repeal it doesn't have the votes for. Obamacare got its votes in 2009/2010.

    13. Another great conversation, thanks for the comments, I'd echo MP's suggestion that the anonymouses (anonymii?) pick a handle. Many great points, anon@1:36 makes a particularly apt one in noting that the exchanges open for business in 31 hours anyway (the shutdown doesn't affect them)? So on what of importance can the Democrats cave?

      Perhaps that's sort of the point. They can't cave on anything Obamacare-related (that matters), even if they wanted to. The resulting effect of the shutdown will then be that Obamacare is born in chaos, born in the sturm und drang of a, say, 2-week government shutdown.

      I take the points above that people should blame Republicans for this. The meme will nevertheless be omnipresent, over the two weeks of the shutdown, that "this wouldn't have happened without Obamacare". Smart people like us know that's hooey, but that message will nevertheless spread far and wide.

      I saw a stat recently that something like 70% of folks without corporate insurance were unaware that the exchanges were opening Tuesday. These are folks who should, indeed must, contract for insurance there! The nation will be introduced to Obamacare over the next two weeks, introduced via the trauma of a shutdown that will be laid at the feet of Obamacare. That can't be good for long-term support of the 'negatives' of the legislation, such as the actuarial disadvantage for the young healthies, or the reduced access that will no doubt accompany lower premia.

      And so, going back to anon@1:36's observation, perhaps that's Boehner/Cruz et al's ultimate strategy. Perhaps they know all along that they're gonna give up in mid-October, at the Plain Blog they will be accused of "surrendering", but the framing will be something like what anon@1:36 noted: "We finally figured out there was nothing we could do about the law, so screw it".

      In the meantime, they will have bought a couple of weeks of Obamacare bashing, indeed the introductory weeks of Obamacare for the vast majority of people whose support for Obamacare is essential to make the law work.

      Interesting discussion.

    14. @CSH: First: my gracious but you are a good sport.

      Second, thirded that it is not actually a sacrifice of privacy or anonymity to come up with and consistently use a handle, while it is actually substantially helpful to everyone trying to interact with the anonymous. That said ... anonymouses (anonymii?) is just grammar enforcer-bait. (If you really want a short explainer: "anonymous" is the regularized, that is, Latinized spelling of the Greek word "anōnūmos," nameless -- which meant "without reputation, uncelebrated," not "whose name we don't know." In some old documents you can still see the imported, transliterated spelling "anonymos," but pretty soon it has a Latin-looking suffix, even though the y in the middle is still there to make plain that it's Greek. It's the same, in an opposite direction, of what happened to "platypus," which was "-pous" (Greek for foot), but English nouns want to end in "-us," "-ous" looks like an adjective, so the "o" went. Anyway, "anonymouses" seems like the natural plural to me, but in Greek it would be "anonymoi," which would in Latin be squashed into "anonymi" -- and the OED gives the charming option, from 1654, of "Anonymo's." Take your pick!")

    15. It's incredible that folks can believe that the GOP is going to manage to survive this. We were all watching in 2011 when a similar showdown fatally crippled the Tea Party? How does this end in any way except the media and the Dems piling on the GOP until the Republicans have completely lost what's left of the public's goodwill? No one is going to notice the Obamacare rollout because it's not going to affect most people. The law is designed to be invisible. It's going to slowly and effectively be implemented, and the GOP is going to get wrecked day after day in the headlines until there's nothing left of them.

    16. @the classicist - thank you for the compliment. In the words of indie rock mainstay Stephen Kellogg, "the truth is I'm just thankful you tolerated me". I'm certainly not preaching to the choir back here, and I'm sure if our roles were reversed I'd be nowhere near as patient as the folks back here.

      I'll say it again: if you resonate with Groucho Marx's quote about not joining a club that would have you, you need to find a place like this. I'd rather an anonymous commenter give a thoughtful dissent than agree with me because We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For, or some silliness like that.

      (But mostly, I want these anonymo's to get themselves a handle!)

    17. @CSH: hmm, whom shall I quote at you in return? How about "indie rock mainstay" (!) Stephin Merritt, surely thinking of interacting with strangers on the Internet when he said: "I have known little civility/ Few have been kind, fewer truthful ..." All I can add is that many of us -- even people who can hold their own face to face (and they tell me philosophy is a blood sport next to the way other people argue) -- are hurt and upset when strangers on the Internet yell at us or blatantly, blithely misinterpret our claims. (I managed to reply to backyardfoundry twice, I think, before I decided never to get into a conversation with bf again ... ) So it's worth noting and saluting the people who can and do and thereby improve the conversation. Exactly the same goes for Couves, Mercer, David Tomlin, and probably a bunch of other regular and irregular commenters here. But it's definitely not a virtue most of us regularly display!

  11. Temper tantrums by the Republicans are the new norm. This has nothing to do with Obamacare, it all they know to do. It's reflects the choice the party has made to go with "non politicans" as political figures.
    Two years ago they were all worked up about the defecit. I recognized their solutions as counter productive but wasn't sure if they knew that or were they just poorly informed.
    They told us that economic growth would end should the tax code revert to pre 2001 levels.I don't think that has proved out.
    What I don't understand is how, given their record of being consistently wrong, any one gives them attention when they do it. In fact, the stronger their opinion on something the more incorrect they are likely to be.
    The question to consider is how to go about modifying their behavior ? They have gone beyond what was once considered normal, not to achieve policy goals but to stop the other side from implementing those goals they stated as part of their election platform, and having won, made into law.
    What is the political scientist's answer to the question, how do reasonable parts of society live with an unreasonable minority ?

  12. I can contribute one other point of view, based on talking about this to a few people. Their perception is that if Republicans win what is essentially extortion, then our system of government is gone. The point isn't Obamacare at all, it's a law that has been passed, found constitutional, and a President who fought for it reelected. It went through the normal democratic process. There is no clear and present danger to its implementation. This is a threat to our system of government and especially if prompted, people may well see it that way.

    1. Yes, you are right. Very well stated without hyperbole.


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