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Just about a year ago, prior to Congress breaking up for its August hiatus, the President summoned Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to the White House. Mindful of the fact that 2010 was a Midterm year, and that all of the House and a proportion of the Senate would be on the hustings during the month of October, the President had something important on which he wanted the House and Senate to focus after they returned to Washington in September.

He thought it important that the Hill tackle the Bush tax cuts before heading out on the campaign trail. The President was erring on the side of caution. There was still a sizeable Democratic majority in the House and a reasonable one in the Senate. Best deal with the Bush tax cuts now, before the campaign season started in earnest. Repeal the tax cuts for the wealthiest, and extend indefinitely those for the middle and working classes. That way, when the politicos were on the campaign trail, the fact that Congress had vouchsafed tax cuts for the neediest people, whilst raising taxes on the wealthy, would be a valuable selling point.

The Speaker of the House agreed. The Senate Majority Leader demurred. He was locked in a neck-and-neck battle in his home state with Tea Party Queen Sharron Angle, and raising taxes on a particular demographic in his state, unfriendly to his political persuasion anyway, just might tip the balance in Angle's favour in the election.

Later, he was backed up in his position by no less than Russ Feingold, who requested a meeting with the President in order to implore him not to pursue this agenda until after the Midterms. Feingold, like Reid, had too much at stake.

Well, we know what happened. The Democrats lost the House - mostly Blue Dog seats, with the exception of Alan Grayson's and Tom Perriello's; the Senate was returned with a smaller majority. Reid retained his position. Feingold lost to a Teabagger. And the Republicans held the Lame Duck session to ransome, refusing to do business until the Bush tax cuts were extended. For everyone.

Fast forward to December, after the tax cut compromise. The President, again, spoke to the Senate Majority Leader and the outgoing Speaker of the House. As part of the legislation to pursue during the December Lame Duck session, the President suggested that a vote be undertaken then and there to raise and extend the debt ceiling. Best get this out of the way in a clean cut vote, whilst the Democrats were in the last gasps of their majority in both houses. The President foresaw difficulties in the types of people the public had chosen to represent them in the House, and the Democrats' majority was weakened in the Senate as well. Get this done, dusted and out of the way.

Once again, Harry Reid demurred. He'd prefer to leave this to the time it came up for debate, at the earliest, in the spring of 2011. Already, the 24/7 talking heads were wondering how a Republican House full of Teabaggers would tackle an increase in the debt ceiling, a situation few of the incipient Freshmen Congressmen seemed to understand. Even some of the incumbents weren't that certain what the debt ceiling was all about. But Reid insisted. Delaying the vote, he said, would ensure that the Republicans, who were now being called upon to govern, would own part of the responsibility.

And so we find ourselves on the brink of disaster.

Last Friday night, John Boehner, the current Speaker of the House, tanked, yet again, on the President, walking away from an overly generous offer on deficit reduction, because the President was insistent on raising tax revenues on the wealthier classes. Talks broke down, again; and Congress suddenly remembered that legislation - specifically, fiscal legislation - was the job they were elected to perform (and paid to do via peoples' taxes). So the Democratic leaders and the Republican leaders decided to formulate their own plans for deficit reduction, and to cut the President out of any and all negotiations.

The Speaker's plan is in total disarray because he cannot unite his caucus. Frankly, his plan stinks anyway, and it's just designed to repeat all this unnecessary melodrama, sturm und drang as a pejorative sideshow in the middle of an election year. Besides, it's an open secret that everything the Republican Party in Congress has done, is doing and will do, has only a single aim: to ensure that this Presidency fails.

Senator Reid's plan is somewhat better, but not perfect. And, like the GOP's effort, it includes no raisings of revenue.

Now, in an eleventh hour panic, the House announces - nay, the House tells the President to invoke the ambiguous 14th Amendment option, something that has never been tried before and may be impeachable.

Where this goes from here is anybody's guess, but one thing is certain: whatever happens won't please either the Right or the Left (and the extremes of both are united in their vicious, vindictive and vehemently ad hominem attacks on the President), and at the end of the day, the President will bear the castigation and the blame, when we really should be pointing the finger at Congress and some specific members.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I needed a reminder - thank you (17+ / 0-)

    I had forgotten that the debt limit and tax cut debate had been pushed back to after the election because those who were up for reelection did not want to vote on these issues in the middle of an election.  

  •  The GOP will do anything (12+ / 0-)

    To tear down this President, and sadly, there are too many in his own party who are willing to help.

    "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

    by Diogenes2008 on Wed Jul 27, 2011 at 01:43:24 PM PDT

  •  Don't forget Pelosi... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, MKSinSA, lordcopper, Actbriniel

    ...calling in July 2010 for the Senate to kill the filibuster:

    http://www.dailykos.com/....

    Which Reid also wimped out on in January 2011.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Wed Jul 27, 2011 at 01:51:31 PM PDT

    •  True, but it hardly mattered by then. (0+ / 0-)

      After the Rethugs took the House it was obvious that there would be no more legislation anyway.

      Of course, if the Rs take the Senate, the first thing they'll do is kill the filibuster. But again, with a divided Congress, there won't be legislation anyway. And even if they win both, they won't get enough for veto overrides.

      If we take the House back next year and keep the Senate, that's when we need to kill the filibuster. Then we can get more stuff done.

      Enjoy the San Diego Zoo's panda cam!

      by Fonsia on Wed Jul 27, 2011 at 04:46:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I would like to add one thing (6+ / 0-)

    Regardless of what the Democrats did or did not do, and when they did (or didn't) do it, one underlying fact remains:

    THE GOP "LEADERSHIP" IS INSANE.

    They are addicted to money and power, and their "base" is not Republicans. It isn't the Tea Party. They are just the hornet's nest that has been stirred up and aimed at the media to deflect and distract.

    Their real base is the richest few - the Koch brothers, Rupert Murdoch, ALEC, and all the rest of that vile and vicious crew.

    We forget that at our peril.

    Fighting amongst ourselves only helps THEM. Period.

    More Democrats in the House, more Democrats in the Senate, more Democrats in all positions in all states across the country. That is the only way to slow down the juggernaut at all, and we have to make sure we never stop fighting.

    I will NEVER give the GOP a pass, or say "Yeah, but that's just how they are." No fucking way.

    "We have only the moral ground we actually inhabit, not the moral ground we claim." - It Really Is That Important

    by Diogenes2008 on Wed Jul 27, 2011 at 02:11:23 PM PDT

    •  What you said: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Diogenes2008, Cedwyn, Odysseus

      "I will NEVER give the GOP a pass, or say "Yeah, but that's just how they are." No fucking way."

      And let's not forget, they manufactured this debt ceiling crisis.

      No matter how mad, I get at Democrats, it doesn't compare to the intrasigent Republicans in Congress. To my mind, nothing compares.

  •  Regarding this: (0+ / 0-)
    Fast forward to December, after the tax cut compromise. The President, again, spoke to the Senate Majority Leader and the outgoing Speaker of the House.  As part of the legislation to pursue during the December Lame Duck session, the President suggested that a vote be undertaken then and there to raise and extend the debt ceiling. Best get this out of the way in a clean cut vote, whilst the Democrats were in the last gasps of their majority in both houses. The President foresaw difficulties in the types of people the public had chosen to represent them in the House, and the Democrats' majority was weakened in the Senate as well. Get this done, dusted and out of the way.

    I don't recall this at all.  Does anyone have a link?

    Because what I remember from that period was the President saying the following at his famous post-tax cut deal press conference:

    "Here’s my expectation," he said, moments after comparing the Republican negotiating strategy to terrorists who shoot hostages, "and I’ll take John Boehner at his word. Nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen.... Once John Boehner is sworn in as speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower."

    In short, what I remember was that President Obama agreed that the debt ceiling increase vote wait until after the Republicans officially assumed control over the House, when they would "have responsibilities to govern."  If there was some other meeting between Obama, Reid, and Pelosi about including a debt ceiling increase during the lame duck session, I'd love to see evidence of it.

    "I used to try to get things done by saying `please'. That didn't work and now I'm a dynamiter. I dynamite `em out of my path." - Huey Long

    by puakev on Wed Jul 27, 2011 at 02:13:54 PM PDT

    •  A few links (0+ / 0-)

      There's this account in the WSJ about how the debt ceiling was considered but was ruled out because of the politics of getting it by the House Republicans during the lame duck.

      There's this handy tick-tock from TPM about when the Senate candidates in 2010 got leadership to cave on the Bush tax cuts before the election.

      And then there's this Felix Salmon blog, riffing on Ezra Klein's fault-finding on the White House for not raising the debt ceiling in 2010, and basically laying it at Harry Reid's feet.

      •  Thanks for the links (0+ / 0-)

        however, the diarist claimed that "after the tax cut compromise...As part of the legislation to pursue during the December Lame Duck session, the President suggested that a vote be undertaken then and there to raise and extend the debt ceiling."  The links you posted don't say anything about raising the debt ceiling during the lame duck after the tax cut deal, they only talk about how including a debt ceiling raise in the tax cut compromise was discussed but rejected.

        In any case, while Reid recommended punting on the debt ceiling until Republicans took over the House, the President was not obligated to take that advice and was clearly wrong to do so.  

        "I used to try to get things done by saying `please'. That didn't work and now I'm a dynamiter. I dynamite `em out of my path." - Huey Long

        by puakev on Wed Jul 27, 2011 at 04:58:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Think you're hung up on the word 'after' (0+ / 0-)

          The coverage from the WSJ discussed what I thought was pretty widely disseminated after the election: some big compromise attached to the Bush tax cuts might involve a debt ceiling vote with secondary goals of freeing up the rest of the month to tackle other things on the agenda. That's what the diarist is discussing, and that's what Dem leaders in the Senate ultimately advised against. That might look unwise in the current light, but I've struggled to understand how people in hindsight, including Ezra Klein, can say it was an open-and-shut case.

          As a counterfactual, what if Obama had refused Reid's plea and insisted on a debt ceiling vote that tied the tax negotiations up for another two weeks and derailed Don't Ask Don't Tell or the START Treaty? Would that be an acceptable price? What if derailing the Lame Duck negotiations only hardened the Republican line, and we got nothing in return? We could potentially still be in the same fix, but with less stimulus in December 2010 and possibly the loss of DADT. I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but I don't think others definitively ruling on the matter do either.

        •  Perhaps I might be in the minority here... (0+ / 0-)

          But quite frankly, I think that lame duck congresses, and especially lame ducks in between a chamber flip, ought to just keep the essential lights on.

          I can understand, appreciate, and even come close to agreeing that such an idea ought to expect a firm foundation of presupposing the next crew capable of at least keeping the essential lights on - and the Tea-fueled GOP is suspect at best.

          However, TV schmaltz though it may be - I always liked that West Wing episode where a defeated Democrat refuses to vote against the wishes of his constituents on a bill that he had previously supported (and per the story, probably cost him reelection).

          For good or ill, I think that's what the nation should be.  

          That's not nihilism, that's not even just deserts - I just think it's the right thing to do.

          I will argue loudly when necessary, volunteer and donate to elect different people who will change course, and make compromises on who those people will be, but at the end of the day, I just don't think it was appropriate for the Democrats to do much in a lame duck.

          This all should have been done before the 2010 election, and FWIW, I think that would been the right political move as well.

          Full Disclosure: I am an unpaid shill for every paranoid delusion that lurks under your bed - but more than willing to cash any checks sent my way

          by zonk on Wed Jul 27, 2011 at 06:39:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  POTUS doesn't legislate, If Reid wasn't doing a (0+ / 0-)

          Debt limit vote, it wouldn't happen.
          .

  •  History is not a real progressive! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kefauver, zenbassoon, 57andFemale

    Neither are facts. Why do you hate progressives with your damn FACTUAL HISTORY?!

    http://www.osborneink.com

    by Matt Osborne on Wed Jul 27, 2011 at 04:02:07 PM PDT

  •  Good diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diogenes2008

    I think that people tend to have very short memories - plus it's easier to just pin everything on President Obama.

    Let's face it - after Monday and Tuesday even the calendar says W T F

    by Actbriniel on Thu Jul 28, 2011 at 04:20:33 AM PDT

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