Boehner walks away—now what?

Pardon that whiplash, but the speaker has left the building.

On Friday morning, a bipartisan deficit deal seemed possible. On Friday afternoon, July 22, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) held a news conference to confirm that deficit reduction talks between the House Republicans and the President had broken down. The Speaker claimed the President had upped the amount of revenue in a proposed compromise. The President said he’d been “left at the altar again.” So – who’s on first?

As of Monday morning July 25, The Speaker says he will release a two-step plan to reduce the deficit: it would include two packages of spending cuts and two debt limit increases (initially about $1.2 trillion in cuts, with an additional $1.6 trillion coming later). The Speaker also proposes a new working group to discuss longer term issues such as entitlement reform. Will the President go along? After being left at the altar? Will Boehner support the McConnell ‘Plan B’ (see July 13 entry below) that may originate in the Senate? He says the House Republicans will likely not support that plan to allow the President to raise the debt limit. Senate Democrats say they will not support a short-term debt limit increase that is too small to last through 2012. It’s hard to see where the progress is—seems that the only things on the table are items some other party has already said no to.

In his Friday news conference, Speaker Boehner said he would offer the new plan over the weekend of July 23-24 in order to prevent stock markets in Asia from reacting badly to the lack of progress in the negotiations. Those markets are open now, and are likely not feeling bullish on America. Your blogger predicts that when the markets do start to tank, which is bound to happen before August 2, we will start to see real progress in negotiations.

You have likely noticed that despite all this negotiation excitement, the Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bills have been moving steadily through the House. Committee consideration of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill has been delayed, though (it had been scheduled to begin on Tuesday July 26). The bills that have been passed will have to be reenacted or amended to reflect lower spending limits, if (as we can expect) lower spending limits are agreed to and adopted in legislation as a result of the debt limit/deficit reduction discussions. At some point these talks are bound to yield some sort of agreement, for the primary reason that the debt limit must be raised. So, this brings us back where we started. Again.