Now that Obama has resolved the fiscal stupidity bomb without a permanent debt-ceiling fix, smart people everywhere think the coming debt ceiling debate is sure to be a reprise of the last one.
But Greg Sargeant gets at what I’ve been thinking: the GOP is the last group to want to go through the debt ceiling debacle again.
All the way back in spring of 2012 (#memories), I examined the vicissitudes of GOP support over the previous year (significantly lower than you’d think, given the Tea Party hoopla). The GOP was riding high—though high in this case means 36% approval rating—until Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity put the brakes their momentum; from there, the GOP stayed in the mid-thirties until the debt ceiling debate later that summer. Both Obama and the Republicans took a hit from that fight, but Obama’s popularity dip was minor, and he immediately began to recover; in fact, right after the debt ceiling debate he began the admittedly modest climb in popularity that culminated in his reelection. The GOP’s approval, meanwhile, fell to 19%, and never recovered. The hostage-taking reflected so poorly on them that they returned to pre-2010 levels of unpopularity, where they remain.
In short, the debt ceiling gamble failed, and Republicans got blamed. And that was when such a tactic was unprecedented. Now that it’s so predictable that we can begin fretting about it the moment it looms on the horizon, it could only hurt the GOP more if they held the country’s credit rating and economic security hostage over spending cuts, again.
Yes, House districts have been redrawn such that many Republicans are safe until 2022, and a lot of these crazies have more to worry about from far-far-far right primaries than Democratic or moderate Republican challengers. However, we just had a long electoral argument over taxes v. spending, and Team Austerity came off the field looking like the New York Jets*. It’s hard to imagine anybody who hasn’t already been swayed by the “more spending cuts” arguments over the past two years suddenly deciding the intransigent Republican House has a point thanks to their second stand over the debt ceiling. Which means the GOP has nothing to gain from blocking the debt ceiling, and a whole lot to lose.
As Sargeant points out, none of this means the House won’t try to block it. But it stands to reason that enough Republicans realize what atrocious politics this is and vote with the Dems, along the same lines as the fiscal stupidity bomb vote. This is probably not what people mean when they talk about returning bipartisanship to Congress, but it’s better than August 2011 by a long stretch.
* Romney is Sanchez, Paul Ryan is Tebow, Karl Rove is Rex Ryan, etc. I’m here all day, people.