To the White House, the shutdown/debt ceiling fight is quite simple, and quite radical: Republicans are trying to create a new, deeply undemocratic pathway through which a minority party that lost the last election can enact an agenda that would never pass the normal legislative process. It’s nothing less than an effort to use the threat of a financial crisis to nullify the results of the last election. And the White House isn’t going to let it happen.
The White House has decided that they can’t govern effectively if the House Republicans can keep playing Calvinball. The rules and promises Boehner makes are not their problem, they’ve decided. They’re not going to save him. And that also rules out unusual solutions like minting a platinum coin or declaring the debt limit unconstitutional. The White House doesn’t want to break the law (and possibly spark a financial crisis) in order to save Boehner from breaking a promise he never should have made.
Top administration officials say that President Obama feels as strongly about this fight as he has about anything in his presidency. He believes that he will be handing his successor a fatally weakened office, and handing the American people an unacceptable risk of future financial crises, if he breaks, or even bends, in the face of Republican demands. And so the White House says that their position is simple, and it will not change: They will not negotiate over substantive policy issues until Republicans end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.
Funny thing – every one of the 432 seats in the House was up for reelection last year. The Republicans control the House because they won 32 more seats than the Democrats. That’s right, THE REPUBLICANS WON MORE HOUSE ELECTIONS!!! They are the “majority” in the House.
George W. Bush won reelection in 2004, but in 2005 the Democrats opposed his Social Security reform proposal even though they were in the minority. In 2006 the Democrats took control of Congress by promising to oppose Bush. In 2008 they took the White House too. In 2009 the Democrats passed Obamacare without any GOP support. In 2010 the Republicans ran against Obamacare and re-took the House and almost got the Senate too.
Ezra Klein knows these things, because in 2003 Ezra started blogging about politics. His posts were supportive of Democratic efforts to oppose George Bush by every legal means. I don’t recall any of his posts back then asserting that Democrats had any obligation to support the president.
Quite the opposite.
The Obama-Reid Method of Negotiation: