Within days of the government shutdown, pundits began to estimate just how long the hard-core Tea Party members in the House would maintain their stand against funding ObamaCare. One even listed the names of 18 members who were already “caving in” while noting another four were considering it. None of those, however, are members of the Tea Party Caucus who continue to have sufficient clout to have closed down compromise discussions between House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the White House over the government shutdown.
All was quiet on the eastern front until Tuesday when President Obama let slip the suggestion that he would be willing to accept a short-term measure to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling at the same time, conditioned upon serious negotiations with House Republicans about cutting government spending sometime later.
Members of the Republican Study Committee, numbering some 170, leaped at the chance to begin building a bridge, willing to consider giving the president what he wanted — no limits on continued government spending and no cuts to his healthcare masterpiece — in exchange for the promise of holding talks about those cuts sometime in the future. Fox News said it would “by definition be only a stopgap fix” but it “could help buy time for lawmakers to nail down the specifics on a longer-term deal.”
This was the opportunity Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was waiting for. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, he trotted out just what was needed: a six-week extension of the debt ceiling coupled with the promise of serious conversations about cutting government spending in the meantime. The ploy was obvious: If Obama refused to cut, the House would refuse to extend the debt limit further.
Wafflers like Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) jumped on board: “It may make sense to avoid back-to-back financial crises. We may need some extra time to pull the right package together.” Translation: Give the president what he wants now and we’ll talk about the possibility of cutting government spending later. Another waffler, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), said Ryan’s idea is “provocative ... anything that gets us to a meaningful reduction of spending ... should be on the table.”
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Photo of President Barack Obama: AP Images