When President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, stood firm against the Republican-controlled House, the impasse triggered the first shutdown of “nonessential” government operations in 17 years.
Amid the impasse, disarray opened up among Republicans as to what to do next. “We’re not going to be disrespected,” said Rep. Marlin Stutzman, an Indiana Republican, revealing perhaps more than he should have to the Washington Examiner. “We have to get something out of this -- and I don’t know what that even is.” Neither, it seemed, did anybody else.
But a new clarity emerged by the end of the week. Talk of Obamacare suddenly faded away as understandable jitters rose over a bigger looming concern: the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.
The Treasury Department says it must be raised by Oct. 17 to avoid a default on the nation’s credit card.
Now we’re talking real money. The nation can weather a shutdown more easily than it can survive a reputation as an international deadbeat.
As talk of ending the shutdown blended with talk of the debt ceiling, the real goal of the shutdown came clear. It’s not about Obamacare. It’s about leverage. Republicans are looking for leverage to get their way on a variety of budget matters, not just Obamacare.
And Speaker Boehner is looking for leverage against his own maverick all-or-nothing tea party factions.
So what’s his game now? Chicken or chess? Fortunately, various sources tell reporters that the speaker of the House is not crazy. That’s reassuring. Boehner was willing to let the federal government drift like a crippled space station through a partial shutdown. But he will not, we are told, risk the full faith and credit of this country’s government by allowing it to go into default.