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Debt Ceiling Digest: Republicans Once Again Turn To Shenanigans Over Reason

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Last week, as House Republicans debated whether or not they would take the debt ceiling hostage in yet another round of flirt-with-default nonsense, we noted three fairly inexorable facts about these stunts. First, as a tactic, the default-bluff in exchange for concessions has a diminishing utility -- you can only back down from a bluff so many times before no one believes you! Second, the move has proven to be politically costly to the GOP (though, let's note that costs have been too short-lived for Democrats to exploit). And third, the White House will definitely reject any demand, anyway, unless everyone there goes temporarily insane.

And backgrounding the recent deliberations over whether House Republicans want to do this again, for auld lang syne, there is public opinion, and it is decidedly against more of these shenanigans. Here's The Washington Post's Aaron Blake:

A CNN/Opinion Research poll released Monday showed 54 percent of Americans would blame Republicans if a deal isn't reached, while just 29 percent would blame President Obama. (Another 12 percent said they would blame both sides equally.)

That's a gap of 25 points -- pretty striking.

Blake goes on to note that the "most striking" thing about those numbers is that "they are actually more lopsided than the blame game was during the government shutdown, according to most polls."

That's more than enough reason for House Republicans to pack it in and pass a clean debt ceiling rise. So, naturally, they won't be doing it.

House Republicans had two bright ideas in terms of what their fruitless debt ceiling demand would be this time: end the risk corridor provision in Obamacare or demand the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. As Brad Plumer noted, the recent State Department report on the pipeline's environmental impact has earned a round of reporting that's a little bit too bullish on its ultimate prospects, but that report has nonetheless moved the needle in the direction of the pipeline being built. So, that would be no fun to threaten default over! And so, we're left with yet another attempt to use the debt ceiling to convince the White House to gut its own health care law.

It's worth pointing out how far the debt ceiling psychodrama has strayed from even the nominal notion of fiscal restraint. Per Sahil Kapur, at TPM:

Republicans have been coalescing around legislation to scrap a program in Obamacare known as risk corridors that they deride as a taxpayer "bailout" of insurance companies. But now Congress' official scorekeeper says the program will save money and eliminating it would increase the deficit.

In a new report Tuesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the risk corridors program would save the federal government $8 billion. That means scrapping the program would add $8 billion to the deficit.

So House Republicans are so aggrieved at the prospect of raising the debt ceiling that they will threaten default until the White House agrees to their demand to ... umm -- increase the deficit.

Makes sense.

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