Boehner's Debt Ceiling Position Hasn't Changed

A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 3 2013 1:14 PM

Boehner's Debt Ceiling Position Hasn't Changed

A report by Ashely Parkey and Annie Lowrey that one House Republican "said Mr. Boehner had said he would be willing to violate the so-called Hastert Rule if necessary to pass a debt-limit increase" has a lot of folks jumping for joy.

But later in the piece, Boehner's spokesman reiterates that Boehner's position on this remains as unreasonable and absurd as ever:

“The speaker has always been clear that a default would be disastrous for our economy,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner. “He’s also been clear that a ‘clean’ debt hike cannot pass the House. That’s why the president and Senate Democrats should drop their ‘no negotiations’ stance, and work with us on a plan to raise the debt limit in a responsible way, with spending cuts and reforms to get our economy moving again and create jobs.”
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Steel has this right. Boehner's position, dating back to 2011, has been twofold. On the one hand he says that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be catastrophic and that he favors avoiding catastrophe. On the other hand he says that he requires unrelated public policy concessions in order to agree to a measure that he himself says he supports.

It is, in other words, the classic suicide hostage strategy: Do what I want or I'll detonate the bomb strapped to my chest. This has always been Boehner's position. Is it credible? I don't think so, but my confidence level is relatively low. Is it a morally acceptable way for a statesman to conduct himself? Absolutely not. Is it different from what he's been saying all along? Nope.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.