We're Heading for Another Obamacare Fight When the Debt Limit Comes Up

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 16 2013 8:49 AM

We're Heading for Another Obamacare Fight When the Debt Limit Comes Up

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Paul Ryan's throwing the first punches.

Photo by Rod Lamkey/Getty Images

On Fox News Sunday, the hardest stretch of his post-budget deal victory lap, Paul Ryan is asked by Chris Wallace about the next debt limit vote. As the folks at Upworthy might say, his next hundred words will inspire you.

We as a caucus, along with our Senate counterparts, are going to meet and discuss what it is we want to get out of the debt limit. We don't want nothing out of this debt limit. We're going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt limit fight.One of the problems or concerns I have with the debt limit is we don't know when it's going to hit. Jack Lew, the treasury secretary, has ultimately discretion on when this could occur. So, the timing of this is very much in doubt. So we're going to meet in our retreats after the -- after the holidays and discuss exactly what it is we're going to try and get for this.

On the left, this is being read (correctly!) as Ryan gently nudging the door open to another debt limit war, in an election year. Can't we already guess what it'll be about? One of the bullet points that convinced most House Republicans to back this bill was "hey, let's shut up about everything except Obamacare." (I'm paraphrasing.)

Later in 2014, with Republicans largely focused on winning Senate races, what will they want out of Congress? A chance to codify their problems with Obamacare, and exploit whatever delays to the law the president is making in his executive decisions. The overwhelming acceptance of this deal suggests that Republicans aren't really obsessed with passing entitlement reform, but they are obsessed with dismantling Obamacare, and they think their biggest mistake in 2013 was using the wrong leverage (the CR) to achieve that.

*This can also function as a class on how to ask questions. On Meet the Press, David Gregory asked if there'd be "another fight" on the debt limit. Chris Wallace asked "are you going to demand more in return" for raising it.

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