John Boehner’s next job could be as a safety buoy bobbing gently in the waters of the Fiscal Shoals, warning off the unwary. (“These are not tears,” he will say with a sad little smile; “it’s only the life-giving waters of the sea in my eyes.”) If he falls, he’ll likely give way to one among the group of 40-something white guys who call themselves The Young Guns, which right there gives you multiple insights into some of the things troubling the Grand Old Party.
House and Senate staff members will take an 8.2% pay cut if their bosses don’t get a tax and deficit deal done before the end of the first federal pay period in 2013. Collectively, the staff are looking at more than $100 million in cuts for the year. Possibly this will have an impact on the negotiations. Their bosses, who included themselves among America’s Warriors and others so valuable or vulnerable as to warrant protection from any budget reductions, face a 0% cut (although their foreign currency conversion allowance will take a brutal hit). Even John Boehner will still get paid despite demonstrating live on national television that he can’t do the job for which he draws a larger pay check than anyone else in the House.
(“Who should get pay cuts?” “Well, let’s start with the obvious: not us. VA nurses first.”)
Based on our secret sauce algorithm, BTC News estimates that any deal in the House that can pass in the Senate will require either 96 Democratic votes and 122 Republican ones or 190 Democratic votes and 28 Republican ones. The Senate could pass a bill with all 49 surviving Democrats (Aloha, Dan …) plus Bernie Sanders, if Harry Reid feels like taking the radical step of using the budget reconciliation process for a budget bill; otherwise, they’ll need a dozen or so Republicans to get anything done before the new Congress gets sworn at on January 3, at which point they’ll need slightly fewer Republicans. Sooner or later, though, some Republicans will have to vote for a deal or there won’t be a deal.
No deal wouldn’t necessarily be a bad deal. In the right hands it could be an almost entirely not bad deal, if only in the context of how bad it could be if everybody with authority gave in to their instincts. With the tax increases and budget cuts faits accomplis, legislators would have the happy privilege of voting for tax cuts on people who aren’t millionaires or comfortably insulated, and restoring funds for valuable programs (and staffers). It could even be fun, with House members collegially tormenting one another with provisions that make attractive bills into horrible ones. What could be rotten enough to attract half the Republicans but not so utterly rotten as to repel half the Democrats?
The Obama administration have the Obama campaign machinery intact, completely distinct from the Democratic national committee apparatus, and nothing really fun to use it on anymore except punishing legislators who piss them off. Will they use it? Dunno, but there have been stirrings. No guarantee that they would use it exclusively against Republicans, as annoyed as the faithful get with liberal Democrats, but one would think vulnerable Republicans would prefer that the Obamans not get substantively involved in their House districts after the Narhwal vs Orca showdown ended the way it did.
Could Democrats really persuade Republicans that the wrath of the Narwhal is worse than Jim DeMint’s propaganda mill and Sheldon Adelson’s 2014 Republican primary budget? I have no earthly idea. Probably not. I don’t know. Maybe so. I find myself in the same position as in the Springs of 2008 and 2012, when it appeared mathematically impossible that any of the GOP presidential primary candidates could win their nomination. There was no dimension weird enough to accommodate any of them. There is not the legislation marginally sane enough to attract some Democrats while simultaneously bizarre enough to attract some Republicans. The economy will be put on a fully imaginary footing and everything will be fine.