Republicans cave on debt limit -- back to boring on Capitol Hill

Now that they've committed to doing this one basic thing, here's why Congress will achieve little else of note

Published February 11, 2014 4:23PM (EST)

John Boehner                                   (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
John Boehner (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Last fall's debt limit fight was (exciting, terrifying, revealing, interesting, pick your adjective) because many Republicans still believed there was a chance they could scare Obama out of his refusal to negotiate and pocket a ransom of some kind.

Today, Speaker John Boehner announced that the House will pass a clean debt limit bill tomorrow (ed. note: He's since announced the vote will be Tuesday night). Democrats will provide most of the votes, Republicans will provide the rest. This outcome has been obvious for weeks.

Assuming nothing unexpected happens, it probably also marks the end of purposeful activity on Capitol Hill for the next year at least. Congress has a budget for the next couple of years. The debt limit is going up, and the GOP claim that a clean debt limit bill can't pass is thoroughly discredited.

But at the same time, Republicans have basically foreclosed on doing anything proactive. They can't do immigration reform because Obama is a lawless tyrant it badly divides their members. They won't pass the Employment Non Discrimination Act because trial lawyers it badly divides their members. They won't extend emergency unemployment compensation because it's unpaid for it badly divides their members. They probably won't even patch the Voting Rights Act because ACORN it badly divides their members.

That means the calendar's clear for moving smaller initiatives -- restoring a military pension cut (after cutting food stamps and refusing to extend emergency UI) -- and symbolic anti-Obamacare measures. A lot of this will be very educational. But the fireworks are over.

By Brian Beutler

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

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