Reid’s End Game. Boehner’s Sh*t Sandwich. Cruz’s Humiliation. Tennyson.

So basically the entire shutdown/default crisis has been handed to Harry Reid.  He either gets ALL he wants (unlikely) or MOST of what he wants (likely).  And he can probably find a way to humiliate Ted Cruz (with the Senate Republican’s enthusiastic cooperation on that score).

Reid now controls the clock.  So he can (yet again) hand Boehner a sh*t sandwich and the only real question is whether he puts any ketchup on it.  So far it looks like he’ll try to serve it up straight.

Reid’s bargaining position is:

  • The Senate Democrats pass a debt ceiling increase AND funding that erases the sequester.
  • If that gets blocked by the Senate Republicans, the Senate Democrats pass  a “clean” debt ceiling raise and funding that partially erases the sequester.
  • And if that gets blocked,  the Senate Democrats pass  a “clean” debt ceiling raise and a continuing resolution.

Because he controls the clock, Boehner will end up with one of the above on his doorstep with the prospect of a US government default a few hours away.  He WILL blink.  And whatever passes WILL have to get through with a mix of Republican and Democratic votes.  The wacko wing of the Republicans are in too deep and have “dealt themselves out of the game” (in the apt words of a Republican Senator).

The beauty of the above is that the “worst” outcome for Harry Reid is a raise of the debt ceiling and an end to the government shutdown.  

The wrinkle behind all of this is that a LOT of Republican Senators don’t like the sequester either.  Most notably John McCain, who is frustrated by its impact on the military.  He is not alone.  That doesn’t mean they can totally roll over on the sequester (if only out of pride).  But if you throw them a few fig leafs, my guess is you get a bulletproof bipartisan Senate majority for a de facto end to sequestration.

This croque du merde gets delivered to Boehner with hours to go.  He goes from demanding an end to Obamacare to voting through an effective end to the sequester AND a debt ceiling raise.

His alternative?  Provoking a US default.  Or scrambling to pass a “clean” set of resolutions himself.  Which would probably be stymied by the House Democrats refusing to play ball (who can simply demand to vote on the Senate bill instead).

And Ted Cruz?  His earlier filibuster sets him up for ignominy however this plays out.

  • He folds like a cheap suit and lets the bill pass without a filibuster.  He looks lame.  The Republican establishment makes certain that capitulation is loudly noted.  This is probably Cruz’s best option.
  • He decided to filibuster it.  He looks profoundly irresponsible.  Senate Republicans vote to terminate his filibuster – humiliating him in another way and emphasizing his pariah status (probably the Senate Republicans preferred option).
  • He filibusters it and goes on long enough that he become “the man that tipped the US into default.”  A bad outcome for Cruz, Senate Republicans, and the nation as a whole

My guess?  Reid is a nasty guy to start with.  And he seems to be taking this  episode particularly personally.  I think he is going to shove as much pain toward the House Republicans as he can.

So the real game might be how much of a sequester raise the Senate Republicans are willing to sign up for?  Wow.   Sort’ve an odd place to come to when your opening gambit was an end to Obamacare….

When the Light Brigade destroyed themselves in the Crimean, Tennyson wrote them a pretty darn good poem.  Maybe the House Republicans will get the same.  But the Light Brigadiers were all still dead….

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Half a league, half a league,
 Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
 Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
 Rode the six hundred. 
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
 Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
 Rode the six hundred. 
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
 Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
 Rode the six hundred. 
Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
 All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre stroke
 Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
 Not the six hundred. 

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
 Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
 Left of six hundred.


When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
 All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
 Noble six hundred.

Copied from Poems of Alfred Tennyson,
J. E. Tilton and Company, Boston, 1870

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