Republicans gave The National Review a draft of their starting point for negotiations with President Obama on the debt ceiling. It's jaw-dropping.
A quick reminder: the debt ceiling is the amount the government is allowed to borrow in order to pay bills accrued by Congress. Here is what the Republicans offer:
- Suspend the debt limit until December 2014.
- Delay Obamacare for a year.
- Include tax reform measures along the lines of the Rep. Paul Ryan principles.
- Agree to a slew of environmental issues: Approve the Keystone pipeline, kill EPA clean air and climate regulations, increase drilling.
- Approve "regulatory reforms" including the REINS Act, which would basically gut the executive authority to make any regulations.
- Implement spending cuts, including reforming retirement programs, the child tax credit ("to prevent fraud"), and, of course, ending Dodd-Frank.
- Reforming health spending, including tort reform.
Some of these things, we will also note, are complete non-starters from a legal perspective. The EPA climate regulations, for example, are essentially mandated by the Supreme Court. George W. Bush dragged his feet on implementing regulations, but lawsuits from various environmental organizations helped force the issue. Adding that to a completely unrelated political measure is pure denial.
We understand that the point of negotiations is to start from an extreme position and then navigate toward a compromise. But it is helpful if you also enter negotiations appearing to be rational.
Obama, for his part, has staked out an extreme position as well: no deals. And he probably means it; a few weeks ago, he said this to ABC's George Stephanopoulos, via Crooks and Liars.
"[I]f we continue to set a precedent in which a president — any president, a Republican president, a Democratic president — where the opposing party controls the House of Representatives, if that president is in a situation in which each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills the other party can simply sit there and say, 'Well, we're not gonna pay the bills unless you give us what we want,' that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely."Which is exactly what the Republicans are advocating. Unable to win elections to regain the Senate — ironically in part because the deeply conservative base supported unelectable Senate candidates in primaries — they've created their Amazon wish list of things, presumably hoping that the president might buy one or two. But unfortunately, he's at his credit limit.