President Obama effectively caved into Republican demands Tuesday when he said he’d be open to short term increase in the debt ceiling and a brief extension of funding for the federal government.
Obama, who spoke today during a hastily called White House news conference, even tied the length of the extensions to negotiations demanded by Republicans.
“If they can’t do it for a long time, do it for the period of time in which these negotiations are taking place,” he said.
Well, Obama Tuesday was elaborating on a cave-in trial balloon floated Monday by National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, who suggested during an event hosted by Politico that an extension could be as short as two or three weeks.
What am I missing here? If the deadlines are extended by another three weeks, that puts Republicans exactly where they were three weeks before the shutdown began October 1, except this time the White House is talking, which is what Obama has said he would never do under threat of a either a shutdown or eclipse of the debt limit.
But with a three week deadline, the threats will still be there. To use White House parlance, Obama will then be negotiating with “terrorists” holding “a gun to the head” with “a bomb strapped to their chests.”
Democrats were in a private uproar Monday because they knew this was exactly what Sperling’s comments meant: They were having the rug torn out from under them as the White House collapsed under pressure.
If Republicans agree to short term extensions, they will shed the charge that they are “inflexible” jerks who just want to hurt people by starving the government. They’ll look magnanimous and serious. And they will be serious, because Obama has already shown that the only way to get him to agree to real reforms is to threaten him with Fiscal Armageddon.
Republicans could then, under threat of a shutdown, work with Obama on some kind of spending and tax deal, while also pushing to roll back parts of Obamacare – like the medical device tax and the Obamacare exemption out for lawmakers – while possibly even getting Obama to delay the whole floundering thing. He knows it’s not ready for prime time.
Republicans stood firm. Even Boehner. They can now reap their reward.