The Republican Party played a reverse card on the debt ceiling after the GOP's funders asked them to. PHOTO: Reuters
Last week, John Boehner told anyone who would listen in no uncertain terms that the Republican Party would not agree to raise the debt ceiling without concessions from the Democrats. On Tuesday, Boehner referred to raising the debt ceiling with no concessions as “unconditional surrender,” and noted “that’s not how the government works.” Go back a few months, and the rhetoric was even stronger. Boehner said the Republican Party was gearing up for “a whale of a fight” with President Obama over the debt ceiling. Yet, somehow, all of that fighting talk vanished practically overnight, and now Boehner is willing to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for a handshake agreement with Obama to negotiate on the government shutdown.
What changed? The Koch brothers and the groups they fund spoke up. Heritage Action, the advocacy wing of the right wing think tank the Heritage Foundation, urged Republicans to raise the debt ceiling and save their fight for the government shutdown. This point was echoed by right wing blogs: the government shutdown is fine, but don’t actually risk going into default.
If Boehner had driven the Republican Party to defy Obama and not raise the debt ceiling without concessions, it would achieve the same status as the government shutdown, with neither side willing to compromise on principle. With a week to three weeks to go before the U.S. can’t pay its bills, we are just far enough from the debt ceiling brink for Boehner to reverse course without looking too much like he’s the one who lost the game of chicken.
What all this really shows is that the big business wing of the Republican Party still exerts pressure. What it also shows is that Boehner and the Republican Party are so closely tied to the strings of its influencers, that they can change policies on a dime (or for a dime) when their funders demand it.