House Republicans have forged ahead with the CR that passed last night—the one that includes an Obamacare delay and the rollback of subsidies for Hill staffers, while setting up a conference with the Senate. Democrats have refused to appoint their own conferees; Republicans held a noon press conference, sort-of-made for TV, at which they sat at a table across from an empty row of chairs. The empty chairs were meant to symbolize the absent Democrats. “As you can see,” said Eric Cantor, there’s no one on the other side of the table! But cameras mostly just pointed at the Republicans who showed up.
The cameras were on hand when Fox News’ Chad Pergram asked Paul Ryan why there was such a hurry to get to conference, after delaying this for months. Ryan:
Our goal and motivation all along has been to get to a budget agreement. All of the things we have done have been to increase the likelihood pro-growth economic policies to create jobs… Sen. Murray and I have been in continual communication with each other over that, but we wanted to go to a budget conference when we thought we had a more likelihood of getting an agreement. If we went prematurely, that would have decreased We have a debt limit coming. That debt limit is coming in about two weeks. Most budget agreements in the past have always involved debt limit increase. We think that’s the forcing mechanism, just like the Budget Control Act that President Obama signed before, or like Bowles-Simpson, or like Gramm-Rudman, or like the 1997 budget agreement. All those budget agreements came together because of debt limit increases.
Meaning: The threat of default would now be used to get Democrats to the table, literally, and negotiate a budget on friendly-enough terms for Republicans. Remember the 2011 supercommittee debacle? Republicans suggest that this would be different, because the result would either be a budget agreement or a disaster. No more punting.