House speaker John Boehner should take a few tips from Nurse Ratched in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest- she kept her patients in line. Even as the Treasury Secretary, leading economists, and even some fiscally conservative FOX News commentators (other than extreme right-wingers Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity) continue to warn of calamitous consequences if the nation defaults on its debt, Tea Party-backed Republicans insist on not compromising on a plan including their own House Speakers.
Boehner’s plan that would have hiked the nation’s debt ceiling for only six months and create a “Super Congress” to control spending failed to gain support from the Tea Party members. The plan that would have cut $915 billion in spending and set up a 12-legislator commission to force another $1.8 trillion in reductions over 10 years. The Tea Party said “not good enough” despite the fact that the bill contains no revenue enhancements. So Boehner could not secure the votes last night – a stunning failure for the House party leader that is faced with a group of Tea party extremists that is putting their party in disarray and as a result the country as well.
In any event, this clears the way for Senator Reid to advance his plan, which would cut $2.2 trillion over ten years and raise the debt ceiling enough to last into 2013. The savings in Reid’s plan come primarily from discretionary spending cuts and the drawdown of troops from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Like Boehner’s plan, it would set up a super committee of 12 lawmakers to propose additional cuts, including entitlement reforms, which would then go to the House and Senate for simple up-or-down votes. But Reid’s version, unlike Boehner’s, guarantees the debt ceiling is extended into 2013, which would push it past the next elections and which many ratings agencies would prefer.
Most sane Americans want a compromise. They understand that a downgrade on the United States’ debt will increase interest rates on home loans, student loans, and credit card bills. The slight hike in interest rates that would result from the country losing its AAA credit rating would also mean the federal government would face an extra $100 billion a year in borrowing costs.
Nevertheless, insanity abounds in the Republican caucus as Tea Party members continue to insist that warnings of catastrophe are exaggerated, August 2 is a fake deadline, and the debt ceiling should not be raised at all. Perhaps, Speaker Boehner should go to the previous Speaker to learn how to run the House the Representatives. Otherwise, when Nurse Ratched couldn’t cow her patients into submission with threats and medication she eventually tried shock therapy. Just saying.