In practical terms, House Speaker John Boehner is still caught between Republicans who want the McConnell non-deal for raising the debt ceiling and the burn-it-down House caucus who are now pushing a grand deal of their own.
In quixotic terms, Mr. Boehner is spending the day on a symbolic measure to pass a balanced budget amendment. The constitutional amendment’s requirements are so austere that House Republicans rejected the budget that would have met them. The Paul Ryan budget, which included coupons for Medicare, would have capped government spending at below 20 percent of the overall economy. The balanced budget amendment would put that cap even lower, at 18 percent of GDP – $300 billion lower. That was too radical for Republicans.
Now, they are insisting that they must vote on that thing again. They want to do it now. They want to act out that little pageant of symbolic voting before they will agree to take a vote on the debt ceiling. That’s where the fight is right now on whether or not we are going to default on our debt, Republicans in Congress insisting on voting on something that’s more draconian that their kill-Medicare budget, something so draconian they themselves already voted it down earlier this year.
If by some miracle that idea ever passes, which it won’t, President Obama said today he would go ahead and veto it.
At the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, founder Robert Greenstein reports today that the balanced budget amendment most definitely would lead to cuts in Medicare and Social Security. In 1996, he won a MacArthur Fellowship for the center’s nonpartisan research, just so you know. Today he considers this scenario:
“[A]n impoverished elderly widow living on Supplemental Security Income — which provides benefits that lift people to just 75 percent of the poverty line — could have her assistance cut back under the measure’s across-the-board budget cuts even as millionaire hedge-fund managers retained their lucrative carried-interest tax breaks.”
That can’t play well with voters.