Republicans finally confronting reality: They’re trapped!

Obama's ironclad resolve not to negotiate over the debt limit appears to finally be sinking in among GOP leaders VIDEO

Topics: Video, Barack Obama, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Debt limit, Obamacare, Default, Debt default, Government shutdown, GOP,

Republicans finally confronting reality: They're trapped! (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

After struggling for weeks and weeks in stages one through four, Republicans are finally entering the final stage of grief over the death of their belief that President Obama would begin offering concessions in exchange for an increase in the debt limit.

The catalyzing event appears to have been an hour-plus-long meeting between Obama and congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday. Senior administration officials say that if the meeting accomplished only one thing it was to convey to Republican leaders the extent of Obama’s determination not to negotiate with them over the budget until after they fund the government and increase the debt limit. These officials say his will here is stronger than at any time since he decided to press ahead with healthcare reform after Scott Brown ended the Democrats’ Senate supermajority in 2010.

There’s evidence that it sunk in.

First, there’s this hot mic moment in which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tells Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that the president’s position is ironclad.

Then we learn that House Speaker John Boehner has told at least one House Republican privately what he and McConnell have hinted at publicly for months, which is that they won’t execute their debt limit hostage. Boehner specifically said, according to a New York Times report, and obliquely confirmed by a House GOP aide, that he would increase the debt limit before defaulting even if he lost more than half his conference on a vote.

None of this is to say that Republicans have “folded” exactly, but they’ve pulled the curtain back before the stage has been fully set for the final act, and revealed who’s being fitted with the red dye packet.

If they got the same explanation from the president that I and several other writers got from senior officials at a White House briefing today, they know that for Obama this is more than just about preventing his own personal embarrassment (at having caved) and more than about his individual legacy (which will be harmed even if Republicans bear the brunt of the blame for a default). He sees “right sizing” the executive branch, and leaving it in better shape than when he inherited it, as a core responsibility of his presidency. Reducing the scope of executive powers in the foreign policy realm is one piece of it. But it would be a complete abdication, in his mind, to leave the next president vulnerable to the nullification of his or her election.



This is the crucial context in which to read separate reports that Republicans want to revisit the “grand bargain.” For the most part, this is just a hangover from the denial phase — Republicans talking to each other, trying to convince themselves that they can walk away from the debt limit with some concession. But they’re also hoping to draw Obama into a negotiation he can’t later extract himself from. It’s not going to work, administration officials say. They are happy to entertain budget negotiations after the debt limit increases. And during those negotiations they believe Republicans can legitimately use the leverage sequestration gives them to extract concessions. But only then. No more negotiating over the budget before the debt limit goes up, as long as factions within the Republican Party are prepared to default.

The only thing that might change Obama’s position is if Boehner decided to sprint into his waiting arms, burning his bridges to House conservatives behind him. If Boehner wanted to finish the budget deal he almost reached with Obama late last year, revenue and all, then throw in a debt limit increase, and a budget for the government, Obama wouldn’t freeze him out. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what Boehner has in mind.

Boiling it all down, this means that Republicans only have one viable way to save face. And that is to come up with something non-substantive — a procedural side-car like “No Budget, No Pay” — that’s independent from the debt limit itself, tack it on to a debt limit increase, and put it on the floor.

Brian Beutler

Brian Beutler is Salon's political writer. Email him at bbeutler@salon.com and follow him on Twitter at @brianbeutler.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...