It’s too easy for people not actually in the Capitol Hill maelstrom to play at “Congressional chess,” imagining brilliant procedural finesses they don’t have to actually execute. Most of the clever stuff doesn’t come off, and it’s impossible, from any distance, to tell a real threat from typical bargaining-ploy b.s.
Still, this idea seems to have some potential: Senate Democrats are going to bring a clean debt-limit increase to the floor this week. (While they’re at it, why not add a clean CR to the mix? There’s probably a good answer to that, which I don’t know, which was my point about “Congressional chess.”)
That will force every Republican Senator to vote for or against default. If the Republicans filibuster – and it’s hard to see Ted Cruz not filibustering – Reid seems to think he has the six Republicans he’d need to break the filibuster.
And if he doesn’t, he can make this the occasion for finally reforming the filibuster rule; it’s easy to imagine Feinstein, Baucus, and Levin, who were reluctant to pull the trigger last time, deciding that if the filibuster threatens the full faith and credit of the United States it will have to go. That seems to me like a feature of the idea rather than a bug.
A Senate-passed bill, of course, just puts the ball back in Boehner’s court. I don’t believe for a moment there are going to be enough House Republican signatures on a discharge petition to force a vote, but at some point even the “objective” media will stop reporting that there’s some sort of dispute going on, with appropriate quotes from each side, and start reporting that John Boehner, by refusing to bring to a vote a clean CR and a clean debt-ceiling bill as passed by the Senate, is causing a completely unnecessary crisis.
Foootnote Boehner’s refusal to bring “clean” bills to the floor seems to me convincing evidence that he’s lying when he says the votes aren’t there; Wall Street isn’t completely powerless, and not everyone in his conference is an unpatriotic extremist. If Boehner could muster a majority against those bills on an up-or-down vote, he wouldn’t have to rely on his control of the agenda. In the immortal words of Lyndon Johnson, “Until you have the votes, you talk. When you have the votes, you vote.”