House Votes To Increase Debt Ceiling

The House passed a clean bill increasing the debt ceiling today, showing that the Democrats have learned their lesson to refuse to negotiate with terrorists. The bill extending the debt ceiling until March 2015 passed by a margin of House voted 221-201, with the support of only 28 Republicans.

Initially Republicans had hoped to tie their vote to some concessions, such as elimination of the risk corridors form the Affordable Care Act. Their argument for this fell apart when the Congressional Budget Office reported that the risk corridors will wind up saving the government eight billion dollars. It would hardly make sense to tie a measure to the vote on the debt ceiling which would lead to an increase in the deficit.

Democrats have learned that if they give into Republican demands, they will insist upon further concessions with each vote on the budget or debt ceiling, further harming the economy. The full Republican caucus would never vote for something as basic as paying our bills (a concept that previous Republican presidents such as Ronald Reagan had no problem with). The only way that the bill would pass would be if John Boehner allowed a vote of the entire House, leading to passage primarily with Democratic votes.

By allowing the bill to go to a vote of the entire House, Speaker Boehner showed that he understood how damaging it would be to the country and/or the Republican Party to once again play chicken with defaulting on the debt. The vote also showed how few sane Republicans there are, with 199 voting against, however I suspect that some of them understood the damage which would result from defaulting but voted against the increase to appease their constituents. One danger of gerrymandering Congressional districts to keep incumbents safe is that even sane Republican Congressmen would find it safer to vote as extremists out of fear of a Tea Party challenge.

While Boehner allowed the bill to come before a vote of the entire House, there is no guarantee that he will do so on future bills, especially when the consequences are less dire. Shutting down the government in October led to a drop in Republican support in the polls, showing that to some degree public pressure can influence the Republicans, but Boehner will be under other pressures from the right to limit his ability to repeatedly bring measures before the full House. Greg Sargent believes that the era of Republican debt limit extortion is dead while Talking Points Memo cautions that the Tea Party Ain’t Over yet.

Imagine if we lived in a country where we had majority rule and a minority party was unable to repeatedly impose its will upon the rest of the country. While a certain degree of roadblocks on government are needed to prevent the “tyranny of the majority,” our current system is being abused, leading to a tyranny of the minority.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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The 2014 State Of The Union Address

Boehner SOTU

The State of the Union address (transcript here) was rather modest, considering the limitations Obama faces in dealing with Congressional Republicans who have had the policy of opposing Obama’s agenda on political grounds since the day he took office. The few policy proposals had already been released, such as an executive order regarding the minimum wage at companies receiving government contacts. There were a few moments during the speech worth noting. He began with what was basically a defense of his record on the economy:

The lowest unemployment rate in over five years. A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world – the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years. Our deficits – cut by more than half. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.

That’s why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America.

Of course, in what is essentially a disproof of trickle-down economics, he recognized that problems remain:

Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.

This sure makes the right wing claims that Obama is a socialist sound ridiculous. Plus there is his support for small business:

Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America. Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other.

While it may or may not be wise, I always wish that Democrats would do more to directly take on the absurd positions held by many Republicans. Unfortunately I’m not sure that showing Republican denial of science would be politically successful in a country with such vast scientific illiteracy. At least we did get this:

But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.

He is right about climate change, but the debate is only settled in terms of the scientific knowledge. Climate change is a fact. So is evolution. And the earth is round. Try to convince the Republicans.

Obama also defended his record on health care:

Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans.

More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.

And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain, or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman. And we did all this while adding years to Medicare’s finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat, and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.

Obama said little about the problems caused by Republican obstructionism, but did mention the “forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans.” I believe the exact number is forty-seven votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Among the lines which got the most attention of the night, when discussing equal pay for equal work:

It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.

The official Republican response was rather empty, and there were also two Tea Party responses. The bulk of the opposition I saw to Obama on line (and in an op-ed by Ted Cruz)  has been to the use of executive orders, ignoring how much fewer he has used than his predecessors. Where were all the conservatives now complaining about Executive power during the Bush years, when Bush went far further than Obama is contemplating?  I doubt their complaints will receive much sympathy from swing voters (the few who exist). As I pointed out recently, voters are realizing that the Republicans are responsible for gridlock, even if the media often overlooks this in their efforts at appearing objective by treating both parties equally when they are not mirror images of each other.

sotu_ideology2

All in all, the address was liberal but hardly ground-breaking. The Monkey Cage has compared every SOTU address since 1986 based upon ideology. This year’s speech was placed around the middle of previous addresses from Obama and Bill Clinton. What I really found interesting about this chart was how far the Republicans moved to the right under Bush. State of the Union addresses are hardly an exact measurement of the ideology of a president, but it is interesting that Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush are far closer to the two Democratic presidents compared to George W. Bush. George W. Bush Started out comparable to the previous Republican presidents in his first speech, then moved significantly to the right. Maybe this was the result of 9/11.

If nothing else, I was happy that it wasn’t Mitt Romney giving the speech. I’m imagining Mitt Romney spending the evening going up and down in his car elevator. I couldn’t resist staring with the above picture which captures John Boehner, even if he isn’t orange enough. I did feel that his green tie did clash with his orange face.

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Government Sells Off Stake In General Motors, Contradicting Conservative Predictions Of Impending Socialism

While Obama’s poll numbers remain down from last year, there has been good news this week. Following a poor roll out, the number of people obtaining health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act has jumped significantly, and the number should grow as two deadlines for January coverage and for avoiding penalties approach. Another major success of the Obama administration was seen this week without very much attention. The government sold its last shares in General Motors. Beyond the obvious benefits to General Motors and the Michigan economy, this was a financial success for the government when tax revenue and money saved on unemployment  claims is taken into consideration.

This is also a  philosophical victory.  Despite record corporate profits and stock market gains under Obama, many on the right wing persist in calling him a socialist. The government investment in General Motors, called by conservatives Government Motors, was a major part of this argument. I recall many conspiracy theories on conservative blogs which predicted that by now the government would have completely nationalized General Motors and moved on to other companies. Of course to those in touch with reality, it was clear that the Obama administration saw involvement in General Motors as a desperation measure, and not something they desired to do.

Conspiracy theories of further nationalization of the means of production were not limited to fringe bloggers. Via Steve Benen, Think Progress collected these predictions in 2010. Not all are as extreme in predicting socialism, but all were wrong:

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH): “Does anyone really believe that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington can successfully steer a multi-national corporation to economic viability?” [6/1/09]

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): “It’s basically going to be a government-owned, government-run company. …It’s the road toward socialism.” [5/29/09]

RNC Chairman Michael Steele: “No matter how much the President spins GM’s bankruptcy as good for the economy, it is nothing more than another government grab of a private company and another handout to the union cronies who helped bankroll his presidential campaign.” [6/1/2009]

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC): “Now the government has forced taxpayers to buy these failing companies without any plausible plan for profitability. Does anyone think the same government that plans to double the national debt in five years will turn GM around in the same time?” [6/2/09]

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA): “Unfortunately, this is just another sad chapter in President Obama’s eager campaign to interject his administration in the private sector’s business dealings.” [6/2/09]

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX): The auto company rescues “have been the leading edge of the Obama administration’s war on capitalism.” [7/22/09]

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ): When government gets involved in a company, “the disaster that follows is predictable.” [7/22/09]

Steve also added this prediction from Mitt Romney:

To put it mildly, this isn’t what Romney expected. In 2009, Mr. “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” was so certain Obama’s policy would fail, he said Americans could “kiss the American automotive industry goodbye” if the administration’s policy was implemented. Indeed, at the time, Romney called the White House plan “tragic” and “a very sad circumstance for this country.” He wrote an April 2009 piece in which he said Obama’s plan “would make GM the living dead.”

 

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Obamacare Success Stories

The media coverage of the Affordable Care Act has often been distorted, confusing start-up problems with the overall value of the law. Even beyond the initial problems, Obamacare is far from perfect. However, it is a huge improvement over the system it replaced in which people with medical problems were often denied health care coverage. In some cases conservatives have tried to pass off long-standing problems with the health care system, such as restrictions by medical plans on which doctors you could see, as problems with the Affordable Care Act. Fox has paraded people before viewers who were cut off by their health care plans when in reality such acts by insurance companies represent exactly the type of problem which Obamacare fixes. Previously those cut from insurance plans were often unable to replace their insurance due to per-existing conditions. Under Obamacare, there are no longer such restrictions on coverage. You might not be able to keep exactly the same insurance plan you have, but most people have the option of receiving insurance from the same company which provides better coverage at a lower cost.

The media has greatly exaggerated the fact that some people, primarily those who do not qualify for subsidies, might wind up paying more for insurance coverage. Often this is because their old plans were designed by insurance companies to limit their risk of actually paying out on claims. At very least, the “losers” under the Affordable Care Act have one significant benefit–insurance which cannot be revoked due to developing medical problems. In addition, although I will pay more next year for insurance, Obamacare has provided me with additional benefits such as covering children up to age twenty-six and covering preventative studies with no deductible or co-pay.

While there are going to be some relative losers in any change, there are far more winners under Obamacare. The media is increasingly reporting on these cases. For example, The Los Angeles Times provided several examples today. Besides providing examples of winners, the article explained:

Two-thirds of the 30 million Americans who will be eligible for individual coverage next year are uninsured today, whether because they can’t afford it now or because they’re barred by pre-existing condition limitations, which will no longer be legal. And more than three-quarters will be eligible for subsidies that will cut their premium costs and even co-pays and deductibles substantially…

Political opportunists (like House Speaker John Boehner), exploit near-term difficulties to obscure the tangible benefits the Affordable Care Act will bring to tens of millions of their constituents. When they say “this law has to go,” as Boehner’s spokesman did this weekend, they’re talking about returning people to the era of exclusions for pre-existing conditions. To people learning they’re uninsurable because of injuries from accidents, or chronic diseases, or the sheer bloody-mindedness of insurance company bureaucrats.

There are problems with Obamacare, but nobody has had to declare bankruptcy due to medical expenses and nobody has died because of being denied insurance coverage.

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Republicans Fall Into Deeper Hole While ObamaCare SNAFU’s Are Unlikely To Help Them Out

How long will Americans remember recent events? At the moment this CNN/ORC International survey does not look favorable for Republicans:

According to the survey, 54% say it’s a bad thing that the GOP controls the House, up 11 points from last December, soon after the 2012 elections when the Republicans kept control of the chamber. Only 38% say it’s a good thing the GOP controls the House, a 13-point dive from the end of last year.

This is the first time since the Republicans won back control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections that a majority say their control of the chamber is bad for the country…

“John Boehner fares just as badly as the GOP,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “Sixty-three percent of all Americans think that Boehner should be replaced as Speaker of the House, a view shared by roughly half of all Republicans.”

According to the poll, only 30% of the public says Boehner, who became Speaker in January 2011, should continue in that role.

However, the election is still over a year away. Democrats need a substantial majority opposed to Republican control of the House due to gerrymandering, along with the concentration of Democratic voters in a smaller number of urban districts.

New issues could shift the balance in either direction. How the Affordable Care Act works out might have an impact. At the moment this doesn’t help the Democrats, but the problems do not appear significant enough to help the Republicans either. A Washington Post/ABC News Poll found that 56 percent of Americans think that the computer problems with the roll are part of a broader problem with the law’s implementation. However this does not translate into agreeing with the Republicans on repeal:

The poll finds that only 41 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the law’s implementation, versus 53 percent who disapprove. Fifty six percent say the website problems are a symptom of broader implementation issues — meaning the public is adopting a very harsh view of these problems.

But even despite this, only one third of Americans support repealing the law. A sizable bloc of those who oppose the law want it to continue, anyway.

The poll finds that 46 percent support the law, versus 54 percent who oppose it or are unsure of their feelings about it. But that second bloc breaks down into 33 percent who oppose and want repeal, versus 20 percent who oppose the law and want to let the law go ahead. That means a total of 66 percent either support the law or oppose it but want it to go forward.

I doubt that this issue will wind up helping Republicans. First of all, computer problems regarding signing up with the plans have nothing to do with the bulk of the benefits of the plan. Once people obtain insurance, any difficulties with the web site will no longer be significant. If anything, the exchanges should help the Democrats as people find they can obtain more comprehensive insurance at a lower rate, even if they could not qualify to purchase insurance in the past due to preexisting conditions. Secondly, the exchanges only affect about eighteen percent of the population, and most people will not vote based upon this.

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The New Political Landscape–The House is Up For Grabs

Going into the budget negotiations, Barack Obama was at a disadvantage. He not only negotiated with the terrorists, he gave in to their demands more than he should have. Now the tables are turned. Obama has shown that he will not repeat that mistake, and the Republicans have shown that they will give in before making the United States dafault. The Republicans have come under so much criticism for even making this a possibility that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have both said they will not cause the government to default on its debts. All of this could have been avoided if Boehner had allowed the full House to vote on a clean budget bill from the start. In the end Boehner did exactly that, preventing the Republican majority in the House from crashing the economy with the help of Democratic votes. Being in an improved bargaining position could also help Democrats over the next year. Voters are more likely to vote for Democrats if the party appears strong, and less likely to vote for Republican if they continue to see them as the party of fiscal and political irresponsibility.

The political question now becomes whether the strong anti-Republican sentiment in the polls will hold until next year. It is possible that this will be forgotten by most voters. It is also possible that this could cause a sizable number of former Republican voters to permanently alter their view of the party, leading to a wave election in 2014. While all the pundits will weigh in, the truth is that nobody knows what will happen a year before an election.

That said, here’s what a few pundits are saying. First from National Journal:

The government shutdown and debt crisis has made 14 House seats more winnable for Democrats, according to new independent ratings released Thursday from The Cook Political Report. There are now—for the first time this cycle—more Republican seats “in play” than the 17 Democrats would need to win in order to take the majority in 2014.

The ratings from the highly regarded political handicapping group, whose founder, Charlie Cook, is also a columnist for the National Journal, is the latest sign that the shutdown has seriously damaged Republicans.

“Democrats still have a very uphill climb to a majority, and it’s doubtful they can sustain this month’s momentum for another year. But Republicans’ actions have energized Democratic fundraising and recruiting efforts and handed Democrats a potentially effective message,” Cook’s David Wasserman explains. Ten Democratic seats remain “toss ups,” meaning the party would probably need to win at least 20 seats to take back the speaker’s gavel…

It’s way too early to know if these movements will hold until November of next year, but its unusual for Cook to move so many districts in one direction all at once. Democrats were losing altitude in generic ballot tests until the shutdown, only to see their numbers climb 5.5 percentage points over the past two weeks. But thanks to gerrymandering, analysts say Democrats need somewhere closer to a 7-point generic ballot lead to retake the House.

From Stu Rothenberg:

The political fallout from the confrontation is very real. Republicans got almost nothing out of the deal to re-open the government and raise the debt ceiling except, of course, that they lost another 10 percentage points in their favorable rating and looked less like an organized political party and more like a disorganized, confused rabble.

Republican operatives are worried that the showdown will improve Democratic House recruiting considerably for 2014, and it could well damage GOP fundraising, both among small-dollar donors and the party’s bigger hitters.

Small donors will be disenchanted that Republican officeholders caved on both the shutdown and debt ceiling, while the larger donors, who tend to be more pragmatic, are likely to sit on their cash for fear that the GOP will do something else crazy to threaten the economy and the party’s electoral prospects.

GOP insiders point out that while the party clearly has lost some ground in recent years among swing voters because of its position on cultural issues, the party’s great strength — at least up until now — was that it was generally seen by independents as fiscally responsible and prudent on economic matters. Now that argument may be more difficult for Republicans to make.

Harry Enten described how difficult it will be for the Democrats to take control of the House, but also pointed out the difficulty in making predictions this early:

The indispensable Cook Political Report has only has 13 Democratic-held seats listed in the relatively competitive tossup or “lean” category. Of course, Democrats need to take 17 seats to win the House. The ratings reflect, among other things, a lack of strong challengers for the Democrats and lack of retirements by Republicans.

The thing is that expert ratings (like most polling) are not all that predictive a year out from an election. At this point in the 2006 cycle, there were 17 Republican seats in the lean or tossup categories (pdf). That’s well short of the 30 seats that Democrats would ultimately take from Republicans. At this point in the 2010 cycle, there were 28 Democratic seats in the lean or tossup category. Republicans, of course, went onto gain 63 seats in 2010.

It’s not until later in the cycle when individual seat rankings become quite useful. That’s when potential challengers and incumbents read the national environment and decide to run or not. Chances are that if the 4-5pt Democratic lead holds, the individual seat rankings will reflect that edge. For now, individual seat ratings probably aren’t all that helpful to understanding which way and how hard the wind is blowing.

If Republicans remain as unpopular a year from now as they are now, Democrats can certainly exceed expectations. Another possibility is that the Republican margin will shrink dramatically in 2014, making it easier for the Democrats to retake the House in 2016 with their chances even better in a year with a presidential election.

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Republicans and Tea Party May Face Long Term Political Consequences For Endangering Economy

It appears that the Republicans are backing down on their brinkmanship with John Boehner now prepared to allow the full House to vote on a compromise bill despite lack of Republican support. Of course the shutdown and fears of default, which have harmed the economy,  could have been prevented if Boehner had allowed this previously. The Republicans will likely play a political price for showing how much they are willing to compromise the interests of the nation to give in to ideological extremists. Support for Republicans has fallen dramatically. The Tea Party has been hurt the most as an increasing number of American voters have come to realize that, despite their name, the Tea Party is a dangerous, extremist group which opposes the ideals of the Founding Fathers, opposes our Constitutional form of self-government, and is pushing the Republican Party in a direction which would bring financial ruin to the United States. A Pew Research Center survey found:

The Tea Party is less popular than ever, with even many Republicans now viewing the movement negatively. Overall, nearly half of the public (49%) has an unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party, while 30% have a favorable opinion.

The balance of opinion toward the Tea Party has turned more negative since June, when 37% viewed it favorably and 45% had an unfavorable opinion. And the Tea Party’s image is much more negative today than it was three years ago, shortly after it emerged as a conservative protest movement against Barack Obama’s policies on health care and the economy…

By a 50% to 31% margin, whites now have a more unfavorable than favorable view of the Tea Party; four months ago whites were about evenly divided in their opinions. Over the same period of time there has been little change in opinions of the Tea Party among blacks or Hispanics, who already held a negative opinion of the Tea Party in June.

And although favorable ratings of the Tea Party have declined across most age groups, there has been a 12-point drop among 18-29 year olds, just 25% of whom now have a positive view of the Tea Party movement…

In the current debate over the debt limit, nearly seven-in-ten (69%) of Tea Party Republicans think that the country can go past the deadline for raising the debt limit without major economic problems, and fully 52% say the debt limit does not need to be raised at all.

The shutdown has also hurt the Republican’s chances to win the Senate per findings of a Public Policy Polling survey.

As people have turned against the Republicans and the Tea Party, some are also rejecting the right wing’s opposition to Obamacare. A Democracy Corps poll found that “Just 38 percent now clearly oppose the Affordable Care Act. While likely voters divideevenly on the plan, 8 percent oppose the law because it does not go far enough. As a result, just 38 percent oppose the law because it is big government.” Opponents of the Affordable Care Act have generally exaggerated their numbers by including both those who oppose  government action and those who oppose the ACA because it doesn’t go far enough. In addition, surveys about the actual components of the law have done much better than polling on the name due to the considerable amount of misinformation being spread.

A year is a long time in politics and many people are likely to forget recent events when voting next year. These events still may increase Democratic chances at taking the  House next year. Some voters will remember, and it is likely many will become more aware of other extremist moves by the Republican Party which under other circumstances might be ignored. The shutdown has assisted the Democrats in recruiting House candidates, making them more competitive in swing districts.  Greg Sargent wrote:

Though the shutdown mess has given Dems a sizable lead in the generic House ballot matchup, that will almost certainly fade. But it could have a lasting impact if it enables Dems to recruit good candidates right now, which could matter to the outcome.

In an interview, DCCC chair Steve Israel told me a number of new recruits would be announced in coming days, thanks to GOP damage sustained in the crisis.

“Conservatively, you will see another three — it could be as many as five,” Israel told me. “In a number of districts we had top-tier, all-star potential candidates who several months ago didn’t see a path to victory. They reopened the doors. These are competitive districts. They tend to be moderate and have large concentrations of independent voters. Those voters are now seeing the Tea Party implement their agenda.”

Three to five new top recruits would not be insignificant, since Dems need to flip 17 seats to take back the House, but Dave Wasserman, who tracks House races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report, estimates that Dems are well short of the number of recruits they need. He says that given how few seats are truly competitive, Dems need between 35 and 40 high-quality recruits to have any shot at putting the House in play, and estimates that they only have two dozen serious recruits at present.

Israel says Dems will meet that goal. “I think we’ll get it into the range of 40,” he said. “I don’t accept that we’re at 20-25 top recruits. I would put it right now in the mid-30s.”

Carl Bernstein had some harsh words for the Republicans:

Journalist and author Carl Bernstein said Wednesday that Republican Party leadership is “cancerous” and has put the United States at risk by letting the tea party lead the GOP.

“The Republican Party today has become a rabid organization from the top down. The leadership is cancerous,” the former Washington Post reporter said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday.

Bernstein called the current situation a “terrible moment in our history” and said only segregation politics offers a comparison.

“You have to go back to the party, the Democratic Party of segregation to find this kind of scorched-earth politics putting the national interests nowhere and putting ideology and ideology above all else,” Bernstein said. “The full faith and credit of the United States, our reputation abroad, our stability, our national security has been endangered by [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell, by [House Majority Leader Eric] Cantor, who have embraced and cowardly appeased these forces who are know-nothings.”

Incidentally, most people are aware that the old southern Democrats who supported segregation ultimately moved to the Republican Party after passage of the Civil Rights Act 1964. It is worth a quick mention as I actually received a comment from a Republican  supporting Republicans over Democrats because of the support for segregation by Democrats. That clearly has no meaning in terms of choosing current candidates.

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Speculation On Ways Out Of The Government Shutdown

There is a lot of speculation as to how Congress will get out of the Republican-created crisis leading to the shutdown of the government, as well as the upcoming need to increase the debt ceiling. There has been some talk of a grand bargain, and more realistic speculation that they will need a smaller deal. I’m not certain to what degree to trust Robert Costa’s inside sources, but his report in The National Review on Republican strategy does sound realistic:

It hasn’t been announced, and you won’t hear about it today, but the final volley of the fiscal impasse, at least for House Republicans, is already being brokered. And according to my top sources — both members and senior aides — it won’t end with a clean CR, or with a sprawling, 2011-style budget agreement. It’ll end with an offer — a relatively modest mid-October offer that concurrently connects a debt-limit extension, government funding, and a small, but strategically designed menu of conservative demands.

At least that was the word late Thursday, when the leadership and groups of Republicans huddled. There is a growing acceptance, especially among the leading players, that the debt-limit talks will soon blend into the shutdown talks and force Republicans to negotiate a delicate peace that can win the support of a majority of the conference (or close to it), as well as a smattering of Democrats. To that end, recent quiet, freewheeling discussions — some hosted by the leadership, others by Paul Ryan — aren’t so much about whipping toward such a deal, but about deciding how to frame it.

So far, it has been an uneasy process, but not futile. Many of the GOP’s more centrist members are asking Boehner and Ryan to not put too much on the table, or else risk turning off Democrats and extending the shutdown. On Wednesday afternoon, during a series of meetings in Boehner’s office, they pressed the speaker to avert a default on the nation’s debt. But Boehner, though with them in spirit on averting default, told his colleagues to hang tight for the moment and swallow hard as the shutdown continues. One Boehner ally tells me the speaker first has to balance his various conservative blocs before he can even privately articulate a final pitch.

But details are floating to the surface as the leadership reaches out to internal power brokers about what’s within the realm of the possible. What I’m hearing: There will be a “mechanism” for revenue-neutral tax reform, ushered by Ryan and Michigan’s Dave Camp, that will encourage deeper congressional talks in the coming year. There will be entitlement-reform proposals, most likely chained CPI and means testing Medicare; there will also be some health-care provisions, such as a repeal of the medical-device tax, which has bipartisan support in both chambers. Boehner, sources say, is expected to go as far as he can with his offer. Anything too small will earn conservative ire; anything too big will turn off Democrats.

It will probably be necessary to give something to the Republicans so they can save face and agree to a deal, unless public pressure becomes so great that they have no choice except to give in. Revenue-neutral tax reform is something which both sides could agree to, and even might be beneficial. That assumes that Republican tax reform doesn’t simply consist of lowering taxes on the wealthy and increasing taxes on the middle class as they have generally favored. Repeal of the medical-device tax, assuming it appears to be part of a bigger bargain and not simply capitulation by Democrats to a Republican demand, is feasible. This is a part of the Affordable Care Act which assists with financing the plan, but which is not a part of the law which supporters would consider to be important. Entitlement reforms would need to be viewed cautiously to avoid giving in unnecessarily on cuts to Social Security or Medicare.

Democrats have the upper hand and might be willing to give Republicans something so they can feasibly give in, but the Democrats have other options. Bargaining might become unnecessary if the Democrats are able to use a discharge petition to bring a clean bill to the House floor which could pass with the support of most Democrats and a small number of moderate Republicans. Greg Sargent explained how this might work in a post today, with more at Roll Call. Republicans might also be forced to give in due to demands from big business, with further evidence of business being unhappy with the Republicans in addition to what I discussed earlier in the week.

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Will Big Business Force Boehner To Give In On The Budget?

The government has been shut down due to the Republican inability to govern and contempt for the democratic process. Lately even the Iranians are appearing more rational. The question now is what happens next. Some believe that the shutdown makes it less likely for the Republicans to refuse to raise the debt ceiling. On the other hand, if the Republicans are still not willing to act in good faith on the budget, is there really reason to believe they will suddenly become more sensible on the debt ceiling?

This crisis is purely re Republican creation. John Boehner can end this any time he chooses. Instead Boehner prefers to play political games, such as with the latest games he is playing over veterans. If Boehner wants to end the shutdown he can do so by allowing a handful of moderate Republicans to vote along with the Democratic minority to pass a clean budget which does not attempt to reverse the results of the last election, eliminate a law which has passed Congress and been upheld by the Supreme Court. Besides, if allowed to see what Obamacare really contains, a vast majority support it:

Here are figures from Kaiser’s March 2013 poll:

Tax credits for small businesses to buy insurance: 88% in favor.

Closing the Medicare drug benefit doughnut hole: 81% in favor.

Extension of dependent coverage to offspring up to age 26: 76% in favor.

Expanding Medicaid: 71% in favor.

Ban on exclusions for preexisting conditions: 66% in favor.

Employer mandate: 57% in favor.

If you agree with those provisions, congratulations: You love Obamacare. Yet when respondents are asked how they feel about “Obamacare,” they’re against it.

Maybe that is the point. Republican leaders realize they have to stop Obamacare now because Americans will love it once it is fully in effect. Plus they will no longer be able to lie about what is contained in the law.

The Tea Baggers in Congress show no likelihood of compromise or rational action. Ideological fervor combined with vast ignorance is a dangerous combination. Maybe this will end by Boehner giving in and allowing a bipartisan House majority to pass a clean budget bill. Maybe he will be forced to give in, if not by public opinion than by one of the Republicans main constituencies, big business. There is not much future left for the Republican Party if their actions cause big business to defect to the Democrats, and there are signs that this is now happening. Just as old fashioned country club Republicans never had much use for the religious right, businessmen have no use for the Tea Party if it continues to act in a manner which cripples the economy.

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Republicans Unable To Shift Blame For Their Recklessness

The Republicans have once again shown that they are incapable of governing responsibly by giving into the Tea Party extremists and bringing about the shutdown. They further show their lack of integrity by trying to place the blame for their actions on Barack Obama and the Democrats. This shut down is 100 percent the fault of the Republicans. There is no blame to share. The Republicans have no business trying to hold the Affordable Care Act hostage in these negotiations. Obama is right that “This perpetual cycle of brinksmanship and crisis has to end once and for all.”

The Republicans are having difficulty so far in placing the blame for their actions on others, fooling only right wing ideologues and sheep. While flipping through the channels after midnight last night I noticed Chuck Todd questioning the Republican line. If the Republicans lost Chuck Todd, this hopefully means that they will lose many in the mainstream media who practice the false objectivity of artificially placing the truth half-way between the claims of each party.

The Republicans are not fooling the American people, with a new Quinnipiac poll showing the Democrats leading the Republicans in a generic Congressional poll by 43 percent to 34 percent. We can’t read too much into a margin which will probably drop after the current crisis ends, but such a wide margin could mean that the Republicans really are risking control of the House. The Republicans have a built-in advantage in the House as Democrats tend to be more highly concentrated in urban districts. Gerrymandering after the 2010 election further strengthened the Republicans. After the 2012 elections, when more people voted for Democrats for Congress than Republicans,  Think Progress calculated that it would take over a seven point lead by Democrats to take control of the House.  That sounds quite difficult, but if the Republicans continue to act this recklessly a wave election which changes control of the House no longer looks impossible.

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