Just about a year ago, prior to Congress breaking up for its August hiatus, the President summoned Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to the White House. Mindful of the fact that 2010 was a Midterm year, and that all of the House and a proportion of the Senate would be on the hustings during the month of October, the President had something important on which he wanted the House and Senate to focus after they returned to Washington in September.
He thought it important that the Hill tackle the Bush tax cuts before heading out on the campaign trail. The President was erring on the side of caution. There was still a sizeable Democratic majority in the House and a reasonable one in the Senate. Best deal with the Bush tax cuts now, before the campaign season started in earnest. Repeal the tax cuts for the wealthiest, and extend indefinitely those for the middle and working classes. That way, when the politicos were on the campaign trail, the fact that Congress had vouchsafed tax cuts for the neediest people, whilst raising taxes on the wealthy, would be a valuable selling point.
The Speaker of the House agreed. The Senate Majority Leader demurred. He was locked in a neck-and-neck battle in his home state with Tea Party Queen Sharron Angle, and raising taxes on a particular demographic in his state, unfriendly to his political persuasion anyway, just might tip the balance in Angle’s favour in the election.
Later, he was backed up in his position by no less than Russ Feingold, who requested a meeting with the President in order to implore him not to pursue this agenda until after the Midterms. Feingold, like Reid, had too much at stake.
Well, we know what happened. The Democrats lost the House – mostly Blue Dog seats, with the exception of Alan Grayson’s and Tom Perriello’s; the Senate was returned with a smaller majority. Reid retained his position. Feingold lost to a Teabagger. And the Republicans held the Lame Duck session to ransome, refusing to do business until the Bush tax cuts were extended. For everyone.
Fast forward to December, after the tax cut compromise. The President, again, spoke to the Senate Majority Leader and the outgoing Speaker of the House. As part of the legislation to pursue during the December Lame Duck session, the President suggested that a vote be undertaken then and there to raise and extend the debt ceiling. Best get this out of the way in a clean cut vote, whilst the Democrats were in the last gasps of their majority in both houses. The President foresaw difficulties in the types of people the public had chosen to represent them in the House, and the Democrats’ majority was weakened in the Senate as well. Get this done, dusted and out of the way.
Once again, Harry Reid demurred. He’d prefer to leave this to the time it came up for debate, at the earliest, in the spring of 2011. Already, the 24/7 talking heads were wondering how a Republican House full of Teabaggers would tackle an increase in the debt ceiling, a situation few of the incipient Freshmen Congressmen seemed to understand. Even some of the incumbents weren’t that certain what the debt ceiling was all about. But Reid insisted. Delaying the vote, he said, would ensure that the Republicans, who were now being called upon to govern, would own part of the responsibility.
And so we find ourselves on the brink of disaster.
Last Friday night, John Boehner, the current Speaker of the House, tanked, yet again, on the President, walking away from an overly generous offer on deficit reduction, because the President was insistent on raising tax revenues on the wealthier classes. Talks broke down, again; and Congress suddenly remembered that legislation – specifically, fiscal legislation – was the job they were elected to perform (and paid to do via peoples’ taxes). So the Democratic leaders and the Republican leaders decided to formulate their own plans for deficit reduction, and to cut the President out of any and all negotiations.
The Speaker’s plan is in total disarray because he cannot unite his caucus. Frankly, his plan stinks anyway, and it’s just designed to repeat all this unnecessary melodrama, sturm und drang as a pejorative sideshow in the middle of an election year. Besides, it’s an open secret that everything the Republican Party in Congress has done, is doing and will do, has only a single aim: to ensure that this Presidency fails.
Senator Reid’s plan is somewhat better, but not perfect. And, like the GOP’s effort, it includes no raisings of revenue.
Now, in an eleventh hour panic, the House announces – nay, the House tells the President to invoke the ambiguous 14th Amendment option, something that has never been tried before and may be impeachable.
Where this goes from here is anybody’s guess, but one thing is certain: whatever happens won’t please either the Right or the Left (and the extremes of both are united in their vicious, vindictive and vehemently ad hominem attacks on the President), and at the end of the day, the President will bear the castigation and the blame, when we really should be pointing the finger at Congress and some specific members.