The House Republican Leadership’s debt ceiling suspension vote today is politically savvy but is a legislative stunt. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has only accomplished in furthering his obligation to the most conservative in his conference. At the slightest hint that the deal that results from this suspension does not pass the conservative litmus test there will be revolt.
This bill is a legislative stunt in contrast with the House GOP conference’s desire to return to regular order. This bill was not spawned from regular order; there were no committee meetings. This is a bill handed down by House Republican leadership without debate, including the unlikelihood of an open rule when the bill comes to the floor.
House conservatives will likely vote for this debt ceiling suspension bill today so Speaker Boehner is likely to get a majority of the majority. Approving this bill places conservatives in a position to walk away from their leadership if the legislative process works its way to a compromise with the US Senate that they find unacceptable. This was on full display yesterday when Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) said, “We’ll always play great with the team when we’re doing what’s conservative.” Further, this vote today will embolden House conservatives to shutdown the federal government in February.
As to sequester, House conservatives have realigned their line in the sand away from preserving defense spending and placed it squarely on the $974 billion in sequester spending cuts with the intent to have a balanced budget in ten years. So conservatives are ready to re-sequence spending cuts as long as the cuts equal $974 billion; this demonstrates a willingness to make defense cuts but likely would require budget cuts to mandatory spending.
There remain House conservatives wary of today’s debt ceiling suspension vote but on the whole conservatives see this as a vote they must take in order to apply pressure on their leadership later.