The Best Deal, A Bad Deal, Or Just A Deal?
On the debt, comparing McCarthy and Boehner
Washington faces a crucial first vote in the House on the Rule for the McCarthy-Biden deal, with an anticipated no vote certainly from Chip Roy but maybe from others as well, as Kevin McCarthy rallies his forces and indicates confidence there will be enough floor votes all around for his deal. For its part, the White House is assuring Democrats that this could be much worse. But the fact they had to negotiate at all is a loss — and the fact that the deal includes major steps on permitting and on Joe Manchin’s pet pipeline project is a sign that they had to give up a lot on the environmental front. Well, that’s what happens when you become a monopartisan issue, greens!
The Democrats’ official position at the onset of this dealmaking process was: nothing, not even the fee for the license. They had the entire national media on their side, the tool of accusing GOPers of being hypocrites for their Trump-era spending, and the only guy who can veto the whole thing and force Republicans against the breaks. And then not only did the Democrats have to negotiate, they negotiated in ways that damaged them with key interest groups! (They even did Republicans a favor, arguably, by blocking shiny objects like tighter work requirements on food stamps. What a foolish thing for these supposedly New Right GOPers to pursue, and yet they did, and Democrats bailed them out!)
One way of looking at this deal is through the lens of the Budget Control Act of 2011. The context of the BCA was much different: Republicans had 240 members in the House and were facing off against a president much more willing to engage in dealmaking. That was, without a doubt, a much bigger win, but it also required ten years of cuts, which obviously Congress ignored, and was mostly about tricking the Congress into trapping themselves into the sequester — a classic example of “fool me once.”
Given that Speaker Kevin McCarthy is in a much weaker position than then-Speaker John Boehner, it’s a better deal than you might expect. $1.5 trillion in savings in the first two years is in reality a spending cut of around $900 billion, compared to $2.4 trillion in a ten-year window. The McConnell-Ryan-Trump spending bills were much worse — and many of the people lobbying against this deal also backed those.
This whole ordeal is a reminder that sequestration was a marvel for achieving its aims. Everyone believed that the GOP would flinch as soon as those cuts started, but they didn’t. With automatic across the board spending cuts if Congress does nothing at all, it set up a scenario where cuts went into effect and children did not starve, bridges did not collapse, and the whole raft of big spending claims was proven wrong. But perhaps that’s a once in a lifetime approach.
If you are a fiscal conservative with designs on running for higher office or statewide in the immediate future, you really ought to vote against this deal. It’s much easier to be a critic. But if this turns out to be second best to BCA, that’s still a solid position to be in given the House GOP’s margin and the need for Senate votes. The difference between a clean debt ceiling hike with no concessions and this is what you gain from a slim majority. It’s hard to see how they could’ve gotten much more.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial