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Who Won the Debt Fight?
Maybe no one?
As we all return to our new abnormal lives today, I know that the last thing anyone wants to read is another rundown of the winners/losers in the pointless scrum over raising the debt limit.
Really, just choose your adventure. If you want to, you can easily find:
Maybe they are all right — and wrong — at the same time. Barring a last-minute suicide bombing by the Freedom Caucus, we may have avoided a catastrophic default. But in political terms, maybe nobody “won” because the whole thing was just futile, stupid, and dangerous. And in the end, nobody was completely happy because it was that nearly extinct phenomenon: an actual compromise. (And, a reminder: Biden is actually not awful at these kinds of negotiations.)
Mr. Biden succeeded in stripping the Limit, Save and Grow Act significantly down from what it originally was, to the great consternation of conservative Republicans. Instead of raising the debt ceiling for less than one year while imposing hard caps on discretionary spending for 10 years, the agreement links the two so that the spending limits last just two years, the same as the debt ceiling increase. While Republicans insisted on predicating the limits on a baseline of 2022 spending levels, appropriations adjustments will make it effectively equivalent to the more favorable baseline of 2023.
As a result, the agreement will pare back anticipated spending over the decade just a fraction of what the Republicans sought….
Moreover, while Mr. Biden did not advance many new Democratic policy goals in the agreement with Mr. McCarthy, he effectively shielded the bulk of his accomplishments from the first two years of his presidency from Republican efforts to gut them.
As David Frum noted, both sides could plausibly claim a win of some sort: “McCarthy wanted a win on principle: use of the debt ceiling as a weapon. Beyond that, his caucus could not agree on specific demands. Biden yielded on the principle, which opened the way to prevail on the substance. Each got what he most wanted.”
As usual, the Wapo’s Catherine Rampell had the most sober take: After all the brinkmanship, posturing, and threats, this is all there is? “From what we know so far, this much-ballyhooed ‘deal’ doesn’t seem terribly different from whatever budget agreement would have materialized anyway later this year, during the usual annual appropriations process, under divided government.”
No sweeping, draconian cuts, no massive concessions on fiscal policy. It could have been much, much worse. But, Rampell asks, “What was the point of all this drama, exactly?”
Yes, we have (fingers crossed) avoided a dreaded default. Which is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Meanwhile, the U.S. government, prodded by House Republicans, has spent the past few months beclowning itself before the rest of the world.
Noah Smith has a similar take:
The recent fight over the debt ceiling, however, seems more like a return to the pointless obstructionism and grandstanding that characterized politics in the 2010s. There was absolutely zero reason for the House GOP leadership to use the debt ceiling — they could have just forced a deal through the normal appropriations process. Few people actually believed that the country’s leaders would let the U.S. default on its sovereign debt due to a random minor budget fight — I certainly didn’t.
So the net effect of using this tactic seems to have been to make the U.S. look like a dysfunctional clown show in front of our allies, at a time when we need to be projecting an image of dependability.
The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein also noted the gap between the risk and the reward: “It’s really something House GOP was willing to risk tanking global economy for such a tangential set of policy goals. Their plan threatened spending on young & low-income but by excluding revenue & entitlements had small impact on overall deficits. Means wildly excessive for ends.”
Exit take: Punchbowl’s Max Cohen asked McCarthy how he would describe his interactions with Biden during the negotiations. “Very professional, very smart. Very tough at the same time,” McCarthy replied. (But, wait, haven’t we been reliably assured that the guy is completely senile?)
BTW, this is a smart reply from Biden: “One of the things that I heard some of you saying is why doesn’t Biden say what a good deal it is? You think that’s going to help get it passed? No. That’s why you guys don’t bargain very well.”
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Happy Memorial Day to You Too, Mr. Indicted Ex-president
The GOP frontrunner:
Perfectly normal, and not at all dangerously deranged.
Luke Russert: Look for Me There
ICYMI: In the summer of 2016, on the eve of the Republican and Democratic conventions, Luke Russert—an NBC News star and a scion of media royalty—walked away from it all. Russert joined me for a special Memorial Day weekend pod to share a story of parental love, loss, and finding his own way.
What Liz said
“After the 2020 election and the attack of January 6th, my fellow Republicans wanted me to lie. They wanted me to say the 2020 election was stolen, the attack of January 6th wasn’t a big deal, and Donald Trump wasn’t dangerous,” Cheney said. “I had to choose between lying and losing my position in House leadership.”
“No party, no nation, no people can defend and perpetuate a constitutional republic if they accept leaders who have gone to war with the rule of law, with the democratic process, with the peaceful transfer of power, with the Constitution itself,” Cheney added.
On Sunday, some students at the private liberal arts college seemed eager to express their distaste for Cheney by booing her. Some of the graduates also turned their chairs away so their backs were facing the former congresswoman as she delivered the commencement address. Although she received a negative response by some, the Daily Mail reported that many students and their parents applauded throughout her remarks….
Meanwhile on Twitter, photos showed one graduate with an inscribed graduation cap that read: "Why listen to a racist, imperialist, transphobic, war monger?? Your hate is loud." Many social media users believed the student's message was a swipe at Cheney and the Republican Party. However, Trump supporters felt the graduates were booing and turning their backs on Cheney because they were supportive of the former president instead.
1. ‘Numbers Nobody Has Ever Seen’: How the GOP Lost Wisconsin
For more than a decade, Republicans have used aggressive redistricting and other heavy-handed tactics in the state Legislature to press a narrow advantage into a seemingly permanent upper hand over Democrats. It began with the election of Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the tea party wave of 2010 and continued through a bold but unsuccessful effort by hard-line Republicans to decertify the state’s 2020 presidential election results. But Joe Biden won the state in 2020. And in the April election, liberal Milwaukee County judge Janet Protasiewicz beat conservative former state Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly by a whopping 11 percentage points, flipping the ideological majority of the court.
In the aftermath, even Republicans here are acknowledging that the state has now shifted leftward, and abortion has a lot to do with that. The end of Roe v. Wade last year effectively reinstated Wisconsin’s 19th-century abortion ban, which is already being challenged — and those challenges will likely be decided by the state Supreme Court. That’s why Protasiewicz campaigned heavily on protecting abortion rights, and the election turned almost entirely on the issue. Turnout was staggering. In 2015, in a similar spring election, a liberal state Supreme Court justice won reelection in a contest in which about 813,000 people voted. This year, the total number of voters who cast ballots in the Supreme Court race more than doubled to top 1.8 million.
2. The Right Is All Wrong About Masculinity
There is a certain irony in discussions of masculinity. The group that is most convinced of a crisis of masculinity, the American right, is also busy emasculating itself before our eyes. It correctly perceives that young men are facing an identity crisis, yet it is modeling precisely the wrong response.
The release of the Missouri senator Josh Hawley’s new book on manhood is the latest peg for a national conversation about men, but the necessity of such a conversation has been apparent for some time. If there’s anything that’s well established in American social science, it’s that men are falling behind women in higher education, suffer disproportionately from drug overdoses and are far more likely to commit suicide.
3. Unnecessary Solutions to Imaginary Problems
Imaginary problem: It is just too difficult to obtain and bear firearms in the United States.
Unnecessary solution: Take aim at existing gun laws.
Execution: Red states across the country are responding to the escalating carnage of gun violence by pushing back on the onerous restrictions that, despite the Second Amendment, somehow still remain in place. As the New York Times recently reported, “In Kentucky, Ohio, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia, Republicans have pushed this year to limit gun-free zones, remove background checks and roll back red-flag laws that seek to remove firearms from those who are a danger to themselves or others.”
4. Trump and the Abuse of the Pardon Power
During this month’s CNN town hall, Trump said that if re-elected he would be “inclined to pardon many” people convicted for their involvement in the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Of course, one cannot know in advance, but this well might include those convicted of sedition—members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers—like Oath Keeper leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes, sentenced last week to serve 18 years in prison. If Trump were to pardon Rhodes and his coconspirators, along with many of the other roughly one thousand January 6th defendants, Trump will be in a position to forge what amounts to a personal militia, whose members, grateful and loyal to him, will have license to work his will outside of the law, secure in the knowledge that they will be pardoned, including for felonies as serious as sedition.
5. What F-16s Will (and Won’t) Do for Ukraine
In the final analysis, Ukraine is unlikely to be fielding F-16s until late in the year—certainly not in time for the anticipated “spring offensive.” F-16s likely will not grant Ukraine air superiority, but they will facilitate the defense of their air space and, if paired with JASSM, provide an important launch vehicle for the type of long-range weapons necessary for their plans to force Russia out of Crimea.
While F-16s are by no means a wonder weapon that will turn the tide of the war, they will help Ukraine adopt more Western styles of warfighting—or force it to—and help its military cooperate better with those of NATO. Unlike the previous provisions of anti-tank missiles, artillery, armored vehicles, and air defenses, the decision to give Ukraine F-16s is not about helping it survive the next phase of the war, but helping it ensure its sovereignty in the long term.
Because, of course.