I will never claim to be John Boehner’s biggest fan, but this move is sheer, ballsy political brilliance.
For the first time in years, House lawmakers will soon have the chance to vote on a standalone measure to increase the federal debt limit next year under the new Republican majority — a vote that’s shaping up as the first early test of the GOP’s commitment to spending restraint.
The House Republican leader, Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, will give lawmakers a chance for a direct vote on raising the debt limit, spokesman Michael Steel told the Washington Times.
That would be a break with the recent tactic of burying the debt limit increase in parliamentary maneuvers — a way to shield vulnerable lawmakers from having to take the unpopular vote — and would instantly give leverage to those in Congress hoping to impose immediate spending cuts.
The obvious benefit to all of us it that the vote will force every member of the House to show us just where they stand on the immoral amount of debt Congress has been piling on our children and grandchildren over the past several years. Ed Morrissey spotted a less obvious, and far more politically clever, benefit as well.
That leaves Pelosi with a card to play in the lame-duck session. Will she attach a debt-limit increase to the budget in an attempt to pre-empt Boehner’s gauntlet on federal spending? If she does, Pelosi will have given the GOP yet another talking point for the 2012 election, especially if Democrats insist on electoral suicide and keep her as Minority Leader in the 112th Session.
As of right now, she’s between the horns of a Brobdingnagian dilemma. On one hand, she can try to slip the vote into another bill, thus handing a powerful and effective weapon to the Republicans. On the other, she can delay the vote and let her members cast their votes as they will. In neither case does she have an option that leaves her or her party in a better position. Her only gambit is to make the claim that keeping the government in operation is far more important than dealing with the debt.
Don’t laugh. That’s a distinct possibility. She can argue that we have time to deal with the debt — months or even a year or two. She can promise to take it up after a commission holds a few more meetings. She can trot out government worker mooks to tell sad stories of poverty, fresh out of their SEIU t-shirts, all with long faces and clad in sackcloth. Do not for a second think that such a ploy can’t work. Remember how much the federal government has grown, how much public sector unions can still spend on advertising, and how badly the GOP can mangle its own message. Boehner needs to get his people where we can clearly see them now with a very clear message about just how bad our spending situation is now.
He’s made one gutsy move by announcing how this vote is going to go when the Republicans do take over. He’ll need a few more and backup from the Tea Parties and the miscellaneous conservatives who have to this point been a bit too busy fighting their own little power battles if he’s going to pull it off.