Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) reached a deal late Saturday on the debt ceiling. Actually, they didn't reach a deal at all. Democrats Steve Ricchetti and Shalanda Young reached a deal with Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Garret Graves (R-LA) on behalf of their respective bosses. The key aspects of the deal are as follows:
Some things that one of the parties wanted are not in the proposal, including:
In the end, it's really just small potatoes even though both sides will claim a huge victory. What the agreement does is mostly freeze the budget for 2 years and tweak a couple of small things. It is not zero-based budgeting, in which $100-billion programs get thrown out because somebody thought they had outlived their usefulness. It doesn't come close to balancing the budget, something last done by Bill Clinton. It doesn't involve abolishing any federal agencies. It doesn't shrink the government so Grover Norquist can drown it in a bathtub. It is just more of the same, plus or minus a couple of percent here and there.
Plenty of folks are unhappy with the deal. Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) said that everything the Freedom Caucus fought for had been omitted in the proposed bill. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) called it a "turd sandwich." Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) told CNN's Jake Tapper that Biden had better worry about the progressive caucus not voting for the bill. Lindsay Owens, executive director of the liberal Groundwork Collaboration, said that it would force budget cuts in domestic programs and make it harder for IRS to catch wealthy tax cheats. Abraham Lincoln couldn't have put it better: You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can't please all of the people all of the time.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said: "There's not one thing in the bill for Democrats." That's kinda true, as it generally is in hostage situations. The relatives of the hostage rarely get money from the terrorists. Best case is that the hostage doesn't get shot. So was it here. The Democrats had to give up a few things they would have had absent this whole stunt, but getting the Republicans to suddenly agree to a $15/hr minimum wage or free college was never on the table. The position that Ricchetti and Young took was: "How much of our budget do we have to give up to avoid having the Republicans destroy the U.S. credit rating and the world economy?" It was never a deal between equals on a new bill—say, how much pork do we each get in an infrastructure bill—where there is genuine give and take.
Now the package has to pass both chambers of Congress. House conservatives are going to balk because it barely does anything, although one encouraging sign is that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), initially seemed pleased with it. House progressives are going to balk because, in their view, it gives away the farm. Neither group wants to give the other one anything because the other side is simply wrong on everything. Few members of Congress have much experience with cutting bipartisan deals, which usually result in getting less than your side wants. If majorities of both parties support the deal, it should pass in both chambers, even if not everyone will be pleased. The bill needs 218 votes in the House, not 400 votes. That's good, because it won't get 400 votes, but it will probably get 218 votes and then some.
The Senate will probably go along with it because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is many things, but stupid is not one of them. He knows that if Senate Republicans filibuster the deal, they will take most of the blame. He does not want that.
A key question now is whether the Freedom Caucus will make a motion to vacate the chair, that is, fire McCarthy. Part of the deal McCarthy was forced into to get the speaker's gavel was to change the rules to allow a single member to make a motion to vacate the chair. Assuming that all 213 Democrats will vote for such a motion, just to cause chaos on the other side, along with five Republicans, then McCarthy is history and we start all over again. It is a bit too soon to see if there are five Republican votes to get rid of McCarthy, much less a unified Democratic vote, but there are no doubt discussions going on right now behind closed doors. One thing we can be sure of is that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) will not be one of the votes to toss McCarthy out on his ear. She just paid $100,000 for his used chapstick. Talk about true love.
How was this story covered yesterday? As expected, almost all the major news outlets led with the deal, though CNN led with story about whether Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) was going to run for president. But to make up for that, the next three stories were about various aspects of the deal. In contrast, it was in the seventh slot at foxnews.com:
After all, photos of tuck-friendly swimsuits, and whether Target will continue to sell them, are more important that whether the world economy goes into a depression. And a story about some 13-year old Australian girl who died from inhaling fumes from a deodorant can was a close second. You can't make this stuff up. (V)