Discover more from Robert Reich
The deal: The only question that counts right now is whether McCarthy and Biden can get the count
Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden reached a deal last night to raise the debt ceiling and prevent the United States from defaulting on its obligations.
Is it a good deal? Who will bear the burden? Should it have ever gotten to this point? Did Biden blow it?
None of these questions is relevant right now. The only relevant question is whether McCarthy and Biden, along with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, can cobble together a majority to pass it before June 5, when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the U.S. will run out of funds to pay its bills.
I believe they can, because they must. There’s no time for further negotiations, and neither side would give anything else away. The deal is done.
But the MAGA Right crazies in the House — anywhere from 28 to 123 by my measure — may not go along, especially if Donald Trump says it’s a bad deal. Which means additional House Democrats will have to agree.
Will they? Here’s where the asymmetry between House Republicans who don’t believe in government and House Democrats who do comes into play.
Progressive Democrats will object to the freeze on certain domestic discretionary spending programs and additional work requirements on the recipients of food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families as unfair and unnecessary. But most will go along with the deal because they believe in government, and they don’t want America to default — with potentially cataclysmic consequences.
Many in the MAGA crowd, on the other hand, will see this vote as an opportunity to show their supporters that they’re willing to blow up the system, because they were voted in on their promise to blow up the system.
So my advice to you is not to get drawn into irrelevant discussions about whether this deal is good or bad.* It’s the only deal. The alternative is chaos. Republicans have succeeded in holding the nation hostage, and now we have to pay the ransom that’s been negotiated.
What happens from here on depends on how many members of the House prefer governing to chaos.
*Since writing this I’ve learned more about the specifics. There’s a lot not to like about the deal — especially the work requirement it places on poor people under age 55 without kids and the absurd cuts in IRS funding. But the overall spending freeze isn’t all that different from what would have resulted from another round of continuous resolutions, assuming no agreement on the budget — except for one grotesque fact: The deal paves the way for more debt-ceiling hostage taking in future years by Republican crazies. And, of course, none of this had to happen if Biden and Dems had used their majorities when they had control over both houses of Congress to raise the debt ceiling (or, ideally, eliminate it altogether), or if Schumer and Pelosi had made Democratic votes to raise the debt ceiling during the Trump administration contingent on a much longer-term increase in the ceiling.