I’m Worried About A US Debt Ceiling Crisis. Can McCarthy Really Deliver The Compromise “Everyone” Expects?

The current consensus on the Debt Ceiling stand-off seems to be “There will be a lot of noise and drama and then they will pass a compromise and we move on.  Just like has happened in the past.”  I see higher risk the Debt Ceiling game of chicken ends up going off the cliff into a constitutional crisis.

Remember that a Bill doesn’t make it to the House Floor unless the Majority Leader allows it…  Any compromise package that can pass the Senate is going to be “too far left” for a lot of McCarthy’s caucus.  But House Speaker McCarthy will have to actively choose to bring any debt ceiling “compromise” legislation to the floor.

He can only lose 4 votes.  You have to assume that more than 4 Republicans will vote against any deal that could realistically  pass the (Democratic) Senate.  So McCarthy would likely have to bring a bill that passes on Democratic votes.   Does McCarthy have the political capital and courage to do so?

The same dilemma mortally wounded Republican Speaker John Boehner in the Obama years when the Republican House Majority had a lot more moderates…   That would be a tough hand for McCarthy even if he were a strong Speaker.

McCarthy is not a strong Speaker.  It took how many votes to get him elected?  

McCarthy is also not an obvious profile in political courage.  How much did he kowtow to the extremist wing of his party to win that squeaker of a Speaker election?

I also hope to see a compromise, but I’m not so hopeful.  This scenario is predicated on 2 questionable assumptions – especially #2:

  1. Are there actually enough D and R “moderates” left to vote a compromise package through?
  2. Will McCarthy actually bring a compromise resolution to a vote?

Working from right to left, McCarthy will likely lose one or more Republican vote for every Democratic vote he gains.  So if McCarthy loses more than 4 Republican votes, any bi-partisan compromise bill will have to shift pretty far left.  Even that assumes there is a workable coalition in the center for anything but a straight debt-ceiling raise…

This also presumes any Republican house member is willing to sign up to a compromise.  Look at what happened to the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after Jan 6th.  Is that a sure bet?  The same calculus applies (less strongly) to House Democrats.

The biggest problem is that McCarthy does not have a way to avoid putting HIS name to that bill.  He knows that risks his speakership and quite possibly his job. Does he take that risk?  Could even the most courageous Speaker conjure a “moderate” majority out of the current congress?

I am hopeful, but I do not like the odds.

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