Featured Historians Julian Zelizer: The painful price of deficit hysteria — Debt Ceiling Showdown

FEATURED HISTORIANS

Source: Julian Zelizer, Salon, 7-29-11

The painful price of deficit hysteria

Library of Congress/AP
Barry Goldwater and Paul Ryan

Regardless of the outcome of the debt ceiling debate, conservatives have already scored a major victory over liberalism. Even if President Obama emerges from the struggle in stronger political shape than the GOP, the fiscalization of American politics — meaning the focus of debate on deficits and debt — constitutes a powerful blow to liberal Democrats who once hoped that President Obama’s election would herald a new era for their cause.

Liberals were wrong. Conservatives, who have a mediocre field of presidential candidates and who don’t control the Senate, have been able to stand their ground.

Perhaps one of their most lasting accomplishments since the midterm elections has been their ability to shift national debate toward the problem of deficit reduction. While there has been disagreement among politicians and economists about whether this is the correct time to deal with this issue given the laggard state of the economy, conservatives have won the battle. Even Nancy Pelosi said this week, “It is clear we must enter an era of austerity, to reduce the deficit through shared sacrifice.”

We are all fiscal conservatives now, at least on paper.

None of this should come as a surprise. Focusing on deficit reduction has been a long-standing strategy for proponents of conservatism ever since modern liberalism took hold in the 20th century. Whenever liberals make progress on their policy agenda, conservatives’ best bet has been to talk about the budget. While it is difficult to directly oppose many government programs, since the public tends to support specific services, it is easy to raise fears about overall costs. Those are just numbers, not programs. Moreover, budget-balancing has long been symbolically important to many Americans. As the political scientist James Savage has shown, a balanced budget represents to many citizens the perception that the government maintains control over its operations….READ MORE

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Political Buzz Debt Ceiling Showdown, July 28, 2011: Speaker John Boehner Delays Vote on House Debt Plan — Plan C Emerges Compromise Between Boehner House Plan & Reid Senate Plan

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

THE HEADLINES: DEBT CEILING SHOWDOWN: OBAMA VS CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS

House Speaker John Boehner

House Speaker John A. Boehner listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill. (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg / July 28, 2011)

JULY 28, 2011: BOEHNER DELAYS VOTE ON HOUSE DEBT PLAN — DEBT PLAN C EMERGES COMPROMISE BETWEEN BOEHNER HOUSE PLAN & REID’S SENATE PLAN

House Postpones Vote on Boehner’s Debt Ceiling Plan: House Speaker John A. Boehner abruptly delayed an expected vote on Republican debt ceiling legislation late Thursday, shifting business on the House floor in the middle of the debt debate.
The delay came after House lawmakers had already began discussing the legislation that would set up a pivotal showdown between the House and the Senate over how to cut spending and increase the debt limit before the federal government loses its ability to borrow.
It was unclear whether the debate and vote on the legislation was delayed because Republicans did not feel that they had the votes to ensure its passage. — NYT, 7-28-11

“When the house takes action, the United States Senate will have no more excuses for inaction.” — Speaker of the House John Boehner

“It will be defeated. No Democrat will vote for a short-term Band-Aid that would put our economy at risk and put the nation back in this untenable situation a few short months from now.” — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Mitch McConnell: Democrat leaders and the President himself have endorsed every feature of this legislation except one: and that’s the fact that it doesn’t allow the President to avoid another national debate about spending and debt until after the next Presidential election. This assurance is the only thing the President and Senate Democrats are holding out for right now.

“We do not have the votes yet. But today is the day. We’re going to get it passed.” — Speaker of the House John Boehner

“Harry Reid has three different options. One is to suffer the economic consequences of default, which all of us hope he doesn’t choose. Two is to bring up the bill we sent prior … or to accept the compromise bill that we are sending over today.” — Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader

  • Debt ceiling Q&A: How did we get here, what happens next? LAT, 7-28-11
  • House GOP Postpones Vote on Boehner Debt Ceiling Plan: House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team urged passage of their short-term debt limit increase Thursday, calling it a compromise that the Senate needs to pass, but delayed a scheduled vote on the bill…. – PBS Newshour, 7-28-11
  • Obama Preps Emergency Plan if No Deal Before Deadline: The Obama administration has begun making clear in the past 24 hours that it is busy preparing emergency plans for how the government would operate if no debt agreement is passed by Aug. 2, and choices would have to be made about which bills would be paid immediately…. – PBS Newshour, 7-28-11
  • Potential Debt Limit ‘Plan C’ Emerges, Democrats Say: Democratic officials are cautiously optimistic that the outlines of a potential compromise – a “Plan C” – are emerging that could bridge the differences between plans pushed by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
    The officials said President Obama has spent the past couple of days quietly reaching out to leaders in both parties to try and start hammering out the details, though it’s clear this is still only in the discussion phase and they are not close to a deal yet.
    Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., hinted at such a compromise earlier Thursday during an interview on Fox News.
    “Let me just say behind the scenes there are discussions underway to find a way forward,” said Conrad. “To how would you harmonize what Leader Reid has come up with and Speaker Boehner has come up with and I’m increasingly of the view that we can do that. That’s good news.”
    The focus of this round of talks is on what kind of “trigger” mechanism the debt ceiling legislation will have to guarantee that a new special committee of Congress actually follows up with real spending cuts later this year. And whether or not positive action by the committee will allow the president to get more leeway on another lift in the debt ceiling so there’s no repeat of the current debate early next year…. – Fox News, 7-28-11
  • House postpones debt-ceiling vote: House leaders have delayed a scheduled vote on the debt ceiling plan offered by House Speaker John A. Boehner, a possible acknowledgement that Republicans lacked the votes to ensure passage.
    The postponement was announced just minutes before the planned 6 p.m. vote. The House instead moved to consider a far less controversial measure — to rename a post office in Peoria, Ill.
    Republicans had been working throughout the day Thursday to lock down support for their plan to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, even as Senate Democrats vowed to swiftly kill it if passed…. – LAT, 7-28-11
  • Snapshot: What is happening Thursday in debt crisis: The House of Representatives is set to vote on a Republican plan proposed by Speaker John Boehner to raise the debt ceiling in a two-step process that links any borrowing increase with spending cuts. If the measure passes the Republican-controlled House, Democrats vow to defeat it in the Senate using their majority in that chamber.
    The vote in the House is tentatively scheduled between 5:45 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. EDT (2145 and 2215 GMT).
    During a morning meeting with fellow Republicans, Boehner urges them to back his bill. Wavering lawmakers get resounding cheers as they stand up to say they will support it. Although several lawmakers say after the meeting they have changed their minds and would vote yes, the result is still likely to be very close as it is unclear how many will oppose Boehner’s plan.
    The chief Republican vote counter, Kevin McCarthy, declines to say whether the Boehner bill has enough votes to pass. “We’re moving in the right direction. This conference has moved a great deal in a short amount of time,” McCarthy says.
    House Democrats also meet to discuss the latest Republican plan. The top Democratic House vote counter, Steny Hoyer, says his party would be close to unanimous against the bill.
    White House spokesman Jay Carney calls Boehner’s proposal a “political act” that would not pass the Senate. Carney urges lawmakers to work out a compromise.
    Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid plans a vote in the Senate on Thursday night on the Boehner plan if it passes the House. “It will be defeated” in the Senate, Reid says…. – Reuters, 7-28-11
  • Speaker Boehner Faces His Biggest Test: When the House of Representatives votes on Speaker John Boehner’s plan to cut the deficit by $917 billion over 10 years (according to that new handy Congressional Budget Office score he got Wednesday night) and immediately raise the debt ceiling by $900 billion (which will allow the government to avoid for default for roughly six months), it will, at once, represent the most meaningful vote of his term and an entirely meaningless vote in actually solving the looming debt ceiling deadline.
    Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy have been getting their members in line in hopes of getting 217 “yeas” and passing the plan without any expected Democratic votes.
    If Rep. Boehner loses this vote Thursday, he’ll be widely viewed as a speaker who has no control over his rank and file. Most Hill observers anticipate the bill will pass, and questions about his ability to wrangle the conservative and Tea Party-backed freshmen will be put to rest, for now. That’s what makes the vote so very meaningful.
    However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Speaker Boehner on Wednesday night, signed by all 51 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them, explaining that the bill is dead on arrival in the Senate…. – PBS Newshour, 7-28-11
  • House Republicans challenge Senate Democrats: House of Representatives Republican leader Eric Cantor Thursday challenged the Democratic-led Senate to accept a House-passed bill raising the debt limit or suffer the consequences of default.
    Cantor issued the challenge at a news conference just hours before the Republican-controlled House was tentatively set to vote on a revised proposal to reduce deficits and raise the debt ceiling short-term.
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Senate Democrats would reject the revised plan crafted by Republican House Speaker John Boehner…. – Reuters, 7-28-11
  • Boehner Sees Passage of Debt Plan; Reid Vows to Kill It: The House and Senate headed for a pivotal showdown on Thursday evening over how to cut spending and increase the debt limit before the federal government loses its ability to borrow.
    The House began debate and a vote was expected early this evening, with Republican leaders confident of winning over enough holdouts to pass their plan, which would make $900 billion in cuts, raise the debt ceiling for a few months, and come back for more of the same later. But Senate Democratic leaders said that if that happened they would waste no time rejecting the legislation.
    Leaders of both parties and in both chambers said that it was essential to avoid a default on the federal debt, but that was practically all they agreed on.
    The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said Senate Democrats would move immediately Thursday night to set aside the House proposal if it wins passage and then take steps to force a vote on Mr. Reid’s own proposal to raise the debt limit through 2012 in exchange for more than $2 trillion in cuts. “No Democrat will vote for a short-term Band-Aid that would put our economy at risk and put the nation back in this untenable situation a few short months from now,” Mr. Reid said.
    But the House Republican leaders, all but declaring that they now had the votes in hand, said that would put blame for the continuing crisis on the Senate Democrats. “When the house takes action, the United States Senate will have no more excuses for inaction,” said the House speaker, John A. Boehner, just before taking his bill to the floor for debate.
    As they prepared to open debate, he and his fellow Republican leaders seemed confident that they would indeed pass the bill soon and send it to the Senate…. – NYT, 7-28-11
  • Rival Plans Avoid Tough Decisions: The two main deficit-reduction plans in the House and the Senate, which would tie cuts in federal spending to an increase in the debt limit, both defer tough decisions and rely heavily on procedural steps to impose fiscal discipline.
    These devices include annual spending caps on selected government programs and a new Congressional panel to recommend additional savings — with no guarantee that Congress will enact the proposals.
    At the center of the debate on Capitol Hill this week is the question whether the cuts are deep enough and the savings are genuine. To get a deal, Congressional leaders may need to add new enforcement measures to ensure that the promised savings are achieved.
    In a weak economy, many economists and Obama administration officials say, Congress should not make sharp, immediate cuts in federal spending. The leading deficit-reduction plans defer major decisions about exactly how and where to cut…. – NYT, 7-28-11
  • House voting on GOP bill _ key step in debt fight: As Thursday’s crucial vote neared, Republican leaders convinced a growing number of their fractious rank and file to support a House plan to stave off an unprecedented government default. Many of the chamber’s GOP freshmen, crucial to passage, were climbing aboard, but leaders stopped short of claiming victory.
    If the House approved the bill, it would bring President Barack Obama and congressional leaders a step closer to endgame efforts for a debt-limit solution before Tuesday’s deadline.
    At an afternoon news conference, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the House would act on legislation that he called “a sincere, honest effort to end this crisis.” Rival Democratic leaders moved ahead on the assumption that Boehner would prevail in rallying Republicans to back the legislation…. – AP, 7-28-11
  • Boehner won’t say if his bill is House’s final offer: Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) implored the Senate to take up his debt-limit bill but pointedly refused to say whether it would be the House’s final offer before a potential U.S. default on Aug. 2.
    “We have a reasonable, responsible bill that was put together with the bipartisan leadership of the United States Senate, and I would hope that they would take it up,” Boehner said Thursday at a press conference with House Republican leaders. “There is no reason for them to say no. It is time for somebody in this town to say yes,” Boehner added.
    Asked if the House would remain in session over the weekend — when it would potentially consider Senate revisions to Boehner’s bill — the Speaker replied: “Sure.” He did not answer directly when asked if the House would consider a different version from the Senate.
    A Boehner spokesman, Michael Steel, said after the press conference: “We believe that once we pass the Budget Control Act, the only responsible course of action will be for the Senate to pass it and the president to sign it — which will end this crisis.”
    The House will vote on Boehner’s bill around 6 p.m. Thursday, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said the upper chamber will immediately take up and “defeat” the measure if it passes the House…. – The Hill, 7-28-11
  • Boehner: House debt plan is not perfect but is ‘doable and signable’: House Speaker John Boehner says his plan mixing spending cuts in exchange for raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit is not perfect but is as large a step that a divided government can take that’s “doable and signable” by President Barack Obama.
    The Ohio Republican says the measure is an honest and sincere attempt at compromise and was negotiated with Democrats last weekend and that passing it would end the ongoing debt crisis. The plan blends $900 billion-plus in spending cuts with a companion increase in the nation’s borrowing cap.
    But the White House has promised a veto since the measure also would require another debt limit increase early next year and Senate Democrats vow to kill the measure tonight. Boehner declined to say whether further compromise was possible…. – AP, 7-28-11
  • Advantage Boehner: Enough conservatives in the House appear to have decided that it’s down to the Boehner plan versus the Reid plan and that the speaker’s proposal is the lesser of two evils.
    After hours of arm-twisting yesterday within his GOP caucus, the betting is that House Speaker John Boehner’s debt ceiling bill will prevail by a whisker without any Democratic support. The House has scheduled a vote for today.
    As recently as Tuesday, the speaker’s plan appeared to be a sure loser, and the pressure applied by Mr. Boehner and his troops to cajole members into voting for it has bruised some feelings. But now even most freshman tea party members appear to be on board. We are told that The Journal’s Wednesday editorial “The GOP’s Reality Test” helped to turn the tide. So did other conservative voices, including National Review, which called the Boehner plan a “worthy framework,” and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, who advised members to “keep an open mind.”
    Conservatives in the House successfully urged Mr. Boehner to add more savings and get rid of budget tricks. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the revised plan will save about $917 billion over 10 years.
    Meanwhile, a Democratic debt ceiling proposal from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was exposed as using fuzzy math. CBO’s analysis found that about a half-trillion dollars of Mr. Reid’s advertised savings were from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — savings that are speculative at best.
    Enough conservatives in the House appear to have decided that it’s down to the Boehner plan versus the Reid plan and that the speaker’s proposal is the lesser of two evils. Moving the Boehner plan through the House increases the chances of “bigger spending cuts,” said GOP Rep. Darrell Issa of California.
    Mr. Boehner conceded that his plan “isn’t perfect,” but he told colleagues that it’s the best the GOP could hope for with “a Democrat-controlled Senate and a Democrat in the White House.” Tea party Republicans, who still feel burned by the false budget… – WSJ, 7-28-11
  • In debt ceiling fight, Boehner lays himself on the line: Much is at stake for the House speaker and the Republican Party as he tries to persuade unruly GOP lawmakers to back his debt ceiling plan…. – LAT, 7-28-11
  • John McCain derides ‘tea party hobbits’ in debt ceiling fight: The Arizona senator says conservatives would end up helping reelect President Obama if they reject the House Republican plan to raise the debt ceiling…. – LAT, 7-28-11
  • Boehner and Cantor To Reid: Pass Our New Bill, Pass Cut Cap N’ Balance, Or Face Default: The Republican leadership in Congress, with Speaker of the House John Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor at the head, told the nation that they are ready to pass their revised plan through the House and to the Senate. They told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the fate of the nation was on his hands, with Cantor telling him he had three options, sit back and watch the U.S. collapse, accept the new bill, or accept prior Cut, Cap, and Balance bill.
    Every time that it seems like resolution is drawing near, both parties make sure to remind the nation that the political show is more important than the nation’s finances. In their latest public appearance, Republicans said time is up, urging Senate Democrats to pass their bill and get on with running the country, without ever recognizing that as both sides blame the other for not passing their own bill, they are both being equally stubborn…. – Forbes, 7-28-11
  • Key debt-ceiling votes loom in Congress as deadline nears: With the high-stakes vote just hours away, House Republican leaders on Thursday made a last-ditch effort to lock down support for their plan to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, expressing measured confidence that they could persuade skeptical conservatives to get onboard.
    “We’re not there yet, we don’t have the votes yet. But today is the day,” House Speaker John Boehner told members at a morning meeting, according to a GOP source who was not authorized to discuss the private conversation.
    But even as Republican leaders hunted for votes, Senate Democrats announced plans to put the brakes on the House bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said his chamber would vote Thursday night — immediately after the House — to block the Boehner bill…. – Chicago Tribune, 7-28-11
  • Debt ceiling talks: House to vote on John Boehner’s budget deficit plan to avoid government default: House Speaker John Boehner was scrambling Thursday morning to line up the needed GOP support to pass his debt ceiling plan, which is set to be voted on later this evening.
    “We do not have the votes yet,” Boehner admitted to Republicans during a closed-door meeting, Politico.com reported. “But today is the day. We’re going to get it passed.”
    Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and their leadership whips fanned out across Capitol Hill to convince, cajole and brow-beat fiscal Tea Party hawks to back the measure.
    Deep divides within the Republican Party threatened to derail the Speaker’s proposal earlier this week, though an emerging civil war seemed to subside as many members warmed up to the plan…. – NY Daily News, 7-28-11
  • Republican division casts doubt on debt plan: The White House threatened Tuesday to veto legislation pending in the House of Representatives to avert a threatened default, a pre-emptive strike issued as Republican leaders of the lower chamber labored to line up enough votes to pass the measure.
    House Speaker John Boehner faced criticism from some conservatives in advance of an expected vote on Wednesday…. – AP, 7-28-11
  • Boehner: ‘Beyond My Control’ How Ratings Agencies Treat My Debt Limit Plan: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) doesn’t sound all that confident that his debt limit bill would pass the smell test with credit ratings agencies, all of which are watching this debate closely.
    At his weekly Capitol briefing, a reporter asked him if he believed his legislation, if enacted would allow the U.S. to maintain its AAA credit rating. Boehner wouldn’t bite. “That is beyond my control,” he said. “All I know is that this bipartisan bill is as large a step as we’re able to take at this point in time that is doable, and signable and to become law.”
    In a strictly literal sense, this is true — it’s not within his power to determine what Moody’s or S&P does whenever this standoff ends. It’s also worth noting that what the ratings agencies do is often inscrutable, can be arbitrary, and is not immune to outside pressures, as we saw in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. But it’s a stretch for him to suggest his actions have no influence over what the agencies do: if he’d agreed to a “grand bargain” with President Obama, he’d confidently be able to predict the country’s current rating would stand. If his plan didn’t portend yet more debt limit brinksmanship in a few months, he’d be on firmer ground than he is now.
    Boehner did tacitly acknowledge that his plan might change, though. Pressed whether his debt limit bill is a “take it or leave it” proposition for Democrats, Boehner would only say, “we have a reasonable responsible approach, there is no reason for anyone to object to it.” Asked whether the House would be in session this weekend, after (presumably) passing his plan, he said “sure.”… – TPM, 7-28-11
  • US Congress can work with lightning speed on debt compromise: The U.S. Congress, known for moving painfully slowly, can kick into high gear when it is staring down a deadline important to the entire country — or when lawmakers are approaching their cherished August recess.
    Luckily for those who want to see Congress promptly raise the the United States’ borrowing limit after months of squabbling, both of those conditions are now in play. Members of Congress have two key dates foremost in their minds right now: Aug. 2 and Aug. 5…. – Reuters, 7-28-11
  • Asian Shares End Mostly Lower; US Debt Ceiling Concerns Weigh: Most Asian markets ended lower Thursday, amid growing concern the U.S. will be unable to resolve an impasse in negotiations on raising its debt ceiling, which could spur a credit downgrade or even a debt default.
    “The scary part of the story is the fact that markets have not priced-in the U.S. defaulting on its debt. Should the unthinkable happen in the next week then a throw back to the chaos of 2008 would again become a reality,” said CMC Markets analyst Ben Le Brun…. – WSJ, 7-28-11
  • Could Boehner and Reid plans both hurt recovery?: With the House looking more likely to pass Speaker John Boehner’s debt ceiling bill today, and with Harry Reid pushing his own plan, it’s worth asking: How would each of their plans impact the economy?
    From the point of view of helping the economy recover, this is idiotic. For Republicans, of course, increased unemployment and lower GDP increase the possibility of Obama being a one term president. The reason few people are stating the obvious — that there’s something oddly masochistic about harming the economy at time when so many are unemployed — is that both sides are pushing plans that could damage the recovery. That’s because we’re trapped in a Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop, where no one’s talking about unemployment and everyone’s talking about the deficit…. – WaPo, 7-28-11
  • Analysis: U.S. may be entering age of political deadlock: The debt limit impasse in Washington, where a polarized Congress is struggling to avert an imminent U.S. default, points to a deeper crisis — America may be entering an age of political paralysis.
    President Barack Obama’s ability to get any significant legislation passed before next November’s election is all but gone and whoever sits in the White House in 2013 will likely face a Congress unable to tackle major issues.
    A crisis of governance — born of decades of gerrymandering, polarization and exploding deficits — could persist in the short term and may last for a decade, said James Thurber of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies.
    “We’re in deep trouble. We are going to have continued gridlock. It’s an era of deadlocked government during a period when the economy is not doing well and we are not doing well internationally,” Thurber said.
    “The world is looking to us for mature decision-making and they are not seeing it. We’re in a situation which is unique in our history. And it’s a very serious situation.”… – Reuters, 7-28-11

Full Text Debt Ceiling Showdown July 28, 2011: Harry Reid’s Statement on the Senate Floor on Republicans’ Refusal To Compromise Taking Toll On Economy — Time for Republicans to End Stalemate, Embrace Senate Debt Plan

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

THE HEADLINES: DEBT CEILING SHOWDOWN: OBAMA VS CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. pauses during a news conference on debt ceiling legislation. | AP Photo

Source: Reid.Senate.gov, 7-28-11

Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding a default crisis. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Five days remain until a few extremist Republicans drive our economy off a cliff because they are too radical and inexperienced to compromise.

Financial experts are begging Congress to come to an agreement that averts a first-ever default on this nation’s financial obligations. This is what one financial analyst said yesterday about the need to avert a default crisis that would spark a global economic depression:

“The market is saying, ‘we need a deal here…’ Default is starting to seep into the marketplace.”

It won’t be long, they say, before financial markets severely react to continued stubbornness by Tea Party Republicans, tanking our economy.

Wall Street had a very bad day yesterday – its worst in months – largely based on the news that Congress has still not found a path forward.

That doesn’t only affect big investment banks or wealthy investors. All around the country, ordinary Americans with 401k’s and college savings accounts lost money yesterday. Their life savings took a hit because a small group of radical Republicans who don’t represent mainstream America have refused to move even one inch toward compromise.

Yesterday’s bad economic news should be a sign to those Republicans who deny reality. Default will rock our financial system to its core.

Many reasonable Republicans realize time is running out. They have urged their colleagues to compromise.

Yesterday on the Senate floor, John McCain, the Republican senior senator from Arizona and President Obama’s opponent in the last presidential election, asked his own party to return to reality.

It “is not fair to the American people, to hold out and say we won’t agree to raising the debt limit,” he said. He called the radical Republican approach – saying up is down and denying the sky is blue – “unfair” and “bizarro.”

“It’s time we listened to the markets,” he told his colleagues. “It’s time we listened to the American people and sit down and seriously negotiate.”

He was talking to his fellow Republicans, and in particular to a Tea Party that doesn’t seem to realize Republicans control only one half of one branch of government. That faction of the Republican Party is holding our economy hostage.

My counterpart, Sen. McConnell, also urged a return to reason.

“We cannot get a perfect solution, from my point of view, controlling only the House of Representatives. So I’m prepared to accept something less than perfect, because perfect is not achievable.”

Both sides know that neither side will get everything it wants. That does not mean we should not come together to find a compromise that gives each side something it needs.

Republicans have drawn the line at ending wasteful tax breaks for corporate jet owners and oil companies making record profits. They have vowed to protect corporate welfare at taxpayer expense.

Democrats have vowed to protect senior citizens who rely on Social Security and Medicare benefits. We will not allow them to suffer while Republicans protect tax breaks for billionaires.

The compromise plan we’re considering here in the Senate protects both those priorities. Unfortunately, in a concession to Republicans, it does not ask millionaires and billionaires to contribute their fair share. But it does protect the seniors Republicans insist should feel the pain.

It would also avert a default crisis while cutting $2.5 trillion from the deficit. That’s more than the Speaker can say for his plan.

Yet House Republicans refuse to support the Senate compromise.

I am happy to talk to my Republican colleagues and listen to reasonable suggestions to make the Senate compromise legislation even better. That would require Tea Party Republicans to admit compromise is not a bad word. Legislation is the art of compromise. They need to learn that.

A significant number of House Republican has said their party would rather see this nation default on its financial obligations than cooperate with Democrats.

This kind of thinking has been roundly rejected by the American people. Nearly three quarters of Americans want Congress to compromise even if neither side gets everything it wants.

This thinking has also been rejected by reasonable Republicans. In an open letter to the House GOP, former Senator Fred Thompson, a Republican, urged members of his own party to recognize a good deal when they see it.

“I respectfully suggest that you rake in your chips [and] stuff them in your pockets,” Thompson urged Republicans.

The proposal on the table would cut the deficit by $2.5 trillion. If their goal is truly to rein in spending, they’ve already won, he said. Republicans should know when to take their chips and walk away.

American writer Elbert Hubbard said “It is easy to get everything you want, provided you first learn to do without the things you cannot get.”

Republicans cannot get the short-term Band-Aid they will vote on in the House today.

It will not get one Democratic vote in the Senate. All 53 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus wrote to the Speaker last night to tell him they will not vote for it.

The economy needs more certainty than the Speaker’s proposal would provide. We must not be back here in six weeks or six months debating whether to allow our nation to default on its financial obligations for Republicans’ political gain.

It would be easy for Republicans to get nearly everything they want, if only they embraced the Senate’s true compromise plan – and stop, as Sen. McCain put it, “deceiving” the American people.

The question remains, will my Republican colleagues be wise enough to end this stalemate?

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