Cross Your Fingers That House Ultras Reject Short-Term Debt Ceiling Hike

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 09: Guys, we need a plan.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

House Republican leaders are now floating the idea of a six-week increase in the debt ceiling, which would essentially allow the shutdown fight to continue as a war of hashtags and anecdotes about National Parks while forestalling the serious economic trauma of a debt ceiling breach. Substantively, this move would achieve nothing. Procedurally, it’s an effort to keep doing what John Boehner does best—keep his caucus together. That’s why the best hope for the country is to keep your fingers crossed that the ultras in the House reject the plan. The key to the whole drama thus far has been that while mainstream GOP representatives don’t necessarily approve of the course the least-compromising segment of their caucus has chosen, they don’t want to actually have a fight with them about it. The “true conservative” brand has enormous strength and prestige inside Republican Party politics, and very few members actually want to find themselves in an above-board intra-party fight in which they don’t get to be the true conservatives.
But that’s a problem for Boehner and Eric Cantor and their supporters. For the country, the leadership’s focus on caucus unity is a disaster. As Robert Costa says, if this gambit fails then the leadership may have no choice other than to accept the need to split their caucus and come up with a plan that Democrats will also support. That’s what the country needs—bipartisan center-out majorities to reopen the government and avoid default, not strategies built from the right-in whose purpose is to preserve the strength of the GOP caucus.