Last night, House Speaker John Boehner abruptly pulled the vote on his debt ceiling plan, as Republican tea partiers in the House continued to revolt and withhold their support, making it impossible to pass.
Shortly afterward, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., couldn’t help but gloat, releasing this statement:
“House leaders tonight were forced to postpone their plan to raise the debt ceiling. As I have stated all week, I oppose the House plan because not only does it not balance, it adds at least $7 trillion to our national debt over the next 10 years… I urge Congressional leaders and the White House to take note: The plan in Congress that had the most support was the one that also required a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. It passed with bipartisan support in the House last week, and had the support of every single Senate Republican.”
The whole ordeal — tea party Republicans blocking any increase in the debt ceiling unless they get 100 percent of what they want — is making many moderate Republicans around the country collectively smack their forehead. John McCain called them “hobbits” yesterday, and conservative columnist David Brooks recently went further, saying if the GOP prevents a raise in the debt ceiling, voters will view them as a party of “fanatics” who “are not fit to govern,” and “they would be right.”
The Boston Globe published a story on Wednesday that examined how moderates are disappearing from the 2011 Republican Party, and the ones that remain are marginalized and frustrated by the apparent tea party takeover and the struggle over the debt ceiling. Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who would most likely be the Senator from Kentucky if he hadn’t been defeated soundly by Rand Paul in the GOP primary last year, was quoted:
“As a Republican I am concerned about how this plays out,’’ Grayson said. “I hope we win this fight and still remain a party that can accomplish things and govern. Sometimes that involves giving a little bit, and this is one of those moments. But, look, I ran on this message and I lost.’’
LEO Weekly spoke with Trey Grayson yesterday about the debt ceiling crisis that America now finds itself in and asked him how he felt about the Republican Party’s performance. Grayson sympathized with Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell, saying that they truly wanted to get a big deal done.
“Boehner and McConnell are in tough situations,” he said. “Boehner wants to do a big deal and help get the deficit reduced in a large way.
“It’s frustrating for him and me and everyone else about not being able to do that. I think McConnell is the same way.”
Part of the reason for this frustration is the new tea party freshmen that have flooded the capitol.
“I would have liked to have seen a grand bargain, but I recognize who got elected last year, and all of the politics involved,” he said. “Unfortunately there aren’t enough people who share that point of view.”
Grayson said they aren’t the only ones to blame, though. “I think there’s a fair criticism of the left, too. When the president started talking about reductions of Social Security and Medicare, folks on the left screamed and made it difficult for him. So there’s plenty of blame on both sides.”
When asked why something as fragile as the debt ceiling should have been tied at all to such a big deal, Grayson said that it was a risk, but provided a lot of opportunity to do something good.
“It is risky, but the flip side of that is that, generally speaking, people bought into doing it. That’s why the president, Reid, Boehner, Pelosi, McConnell and a lot of members agreed that this represented an opportunity to try to fix not just the short term problem, the debt ceiling issue, but also do some actual spending reduction. It’s just unfortunate that you are playing a little with fire by doing that. But I think they all went in it with the best intentions… everybody’s got a little bit of leverage here, maybe we can do something better. And it just hasn’t worked the way that people thought.”
Grayson further believes that Republicans have already won concessions on almost everything they asked for.
“As a Republican, we’ve kind of already won,” said Grayson. “Normally there aren’t a lot of things tied to the debt ceiling, it’s just lifted cleanly in most instances. So to a certain extent, Republicans were able to leverage this to get the discussions — they were only going to raise it if there are some spending reductions. And we won that point. But I read somewhere, ‘they’re snatching defeat from the jaws of victory’ here, by not being able to get either a bigger deal or any deal at all. You may just pass a clean debt ceiling increse when all is said and done, who knows.”
Grayson also admits that the Republicans could face a heavy political backlash if the country defaults, a belief that he shares with Boehner and McConnell.
“My suspicion is that Republicans will get blamed, fairly or unfairly. What makes this potential opportunity that we have, to really get a down payment on getting spending under control, and winning the larger argument here, but having to make a few small concessions to do it. You know, we had the potential of winning 80 percent of this dispute, and that’s a pretty good percentage on a pretty important issue. And the down side is that if it doesn’t happen, we get the blame. And fairly or unfairly, I think that is the political reality.
“I think that is what’s motivating Boehner and McConnell. They realize the political risks of the failure to reach a policy agreement here.”
We’ll find out today if Boehner will bring his plan up for a vote, and whether enough Republicans will “get their ass in line,” as Boehner said earlier this week. Either way, it will not pass the Senate. Largely because so many folks from the tea party went to Congress this year, and they are not budging. Neither is Rand Paul, who sounds nothing like would-be KY Senator Trey Grayson.