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House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor stand in front of a white flag of surrender
With their debt limit capitulation slated for today, House Republican leadership is scrambling to find ways to make it look like a win—to the media and to their own more extremist members. To that end, Jake Sherman at Politico, or whatever members of Republican leadership he's stenographing for, insist that no matter what it looks like, today's vote is not a surrender, it's master strategery, part of a larger plan in which "in roughly 48 hours ... Republicans went from defense to offense."
The plan is this: suspend the debt ceiling until May 19 while allowing the president to borrow enough to fund government expenditures until then. That will essentially reorder the legislative fights in their favor, Republicans believe, allowing them to focus on the sequester and funding for the government first and the debt ceiling later. [...]

GOP aides acknowledge that the elaborate plan might fail, but their goal is simple: If the Senate in fact passes a budget, a conversation about entitlement reform and rewriting the Tax Code will organically bubble to the surface. If they can move ahead with drastic changes to mandatory spending and tax reform after a debate over each chamber’s budget, lifting the debt ceiling again would be an afterthought.

Okay ... so Republicans think the debt ceiling is going to be a losing issue in four months the same as it is now and don't want to make an issue of it. That makes today's vote look much less like surrender! So they're going to focus on entitlement reform and the tax code sometime soon, and will totally win that fight. Except that Republican positions on entitlement reform and taxes are wildly unpopular with the public, and an organic bubbling of the subjects won't change that fact. Republicans will still be holding things voters like hostage and demanding things voters don't like.

So the far right of the Republican party rightly sees the debt limit extension as a surrender, and may be unwilling to vote for it. Meanwhile, Greg Sargent reports, Democrats are trying to throw Boehner an anvil by whipping No votes on the debt limit vote, forcing him to come up with enough Republican votes to pass it. Boehner can only lose 16 of his members before he has to rely on Democratic votes:

So House GOP leaders have given conservatives some incentives to vote for the debt ceiling extension. According to Jonathan Weisman and Conn Carroll, House conservatives are being offered a deal: If they support today’s measure, Republican leaders will allow the sequestered spending cuts to go forward (or find equivalent cuts elsewhere) and will also produce a budget that balances in 10 years.
Which they will not actually do, because House Republicans don't want the sequester to happen and can't come up with a budget that balances in 10 years that doesn't include significant new revenue, at least not if they ever want to win an election ever again. Basically, the one win House Republicans can get out of the debt limit vote is not making themselves more unpopular than they already are and taking a couple months to regroup and hope they go into the next fight less hated by the public. All the rest of their claims about how this is strategy not surrender are theater.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 07:15 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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