Signs of a Possible Republican Cave

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 9 2013 4:59 PM

Signs of a Possible Republican Cave

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Paul Ryan's here to clear this all up.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The "clean CR" and "clean debt limit" discussions are interlocking and confusing and often misleading. There are not very many Republicans ready to vote, right now, for a continuing resolution or debt limit hike that works the way such things normally work. Most of the members on record for "clean" deals want to create space for a negotiation, while avoiding a crisis. That, I think, is what Dana Bash discovered from this anonymous GOP House member.

The Republicans may be willing to go for a short-term debt ceiling increase as long as the president agrees to use that time to negotiate, the source told CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash. How long is short term? This GOP source said maybe four to six weeks.
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This chatter has to be read alongside Paul Ryan's Wall Street Journal op-ed, and the subsequent criticism of same. Ryan focused not on Obamacare (he didn't even mention it!) in a possible debt limit deal, but on entitlements. "Most of us agree that gradual, structural reforms are better than sudden, arbitrary cuts," he wrote. "For my Democratic colleagues, the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act are a major concern. And the truth is, there's a better way to cut spending. We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs." The whole thing made Ryan look like the bro at the bar telling another bro "Chad, I think you've had enough to drink. Let's go home."

The mainstream political press has had some fun knocking Ryan for being absent in these funding talks. Wasn't his strategy obvious? He got as far as humanly possible from the people endorsing a plan to defund Obamacare on the worst possible terms. Blessed with his own credibility in the GOP conference, Ryan was able to hang back and re-emerge when the party was ready to admit defeat/pretend that it won and change tacks.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.