But the debt limit deal of August 2011 raised the debt limit just enough to get us through the 2012 elections. So after that, there is going to be another big fight over the debt limit. And John Boehner is about to walk into another disaster for himself and his party. He is now threatening to let the United States default should the president be re-elected (and he will be) and remain opposed to European-style Romney-Ryan austerity measures. Boehner wants Tea-party size cuts in domestic programs plus huge tax cuts for the super rich by keeping the Bush tax cuts permanently.
John Boehner is bad at his job. Even the political side of it. By bringing this up, not only is he convincing the American people that his party has nothing to offer, he is handing President Obama something he's wanted: the ability to run against an extreme ideologue Congress that is hell bent on hurting people rather than compromising and signing on to a proposal for the greater good.
President Obama, quite rightly, wants to run against exactly that. When people ask him why more wasn't done - whatever the issue - he could already point to the Republicans in Congress and correctly say that they have had an agenda of obstruction from day one. All Boehner is doing is thrusting himself into the news cycle and pretty much yelling, "Yes, yes yes! Look at me, look at me! I did it!" Now, the President's campaign doesn't even have to go into all the instances of the past; they can just point to what's going on and say, "See? They're doing it right now!"
It's not just the Obama campaign that will be able to do this of course. Democrats in Congress and running for Congress will also be able to use this threat to point out Republican extremism to voters. John Boehner is sending an unmistakable signal: if you want the government to work, if you want to release it from gridlock, vote Democratic.
But what about Mitt Romney? The conventional wisdom is that this won't harm Romney; that he would just stand apart from it and blame the President for gridlock. Here's the problem with that conventional wisdom: the debt limit isn't even up for a debate until after the election, and the moment of reckoning won't come until early next year. It's not as though John Boehner can make things difficult for President Obama in this respect right now. So, Romney won't have a chance to stand apart and pontificate about gridlock, because on that issue, there's no gridlock to be had just yet.
But the Speaker's threat will give the President and his campaign another opportunity to tie Mr. Romney to the extreme Republican agenda, even without doing any actual legislative fighting over the debt limit. Mitt Romney is on record embracing Paul Ryan's Path to Poverty, as well as Boehner's extreme position that programs that help the poor and the middle class must be essentially ended and Medicare voucherized not in order to close the deficit but in order that we can give ever larger tax giveaways to the rich and write bigger checks to defense contractors.
Mitt Romney will have to answer whether he supports Boehner's threat that cuts in assistance for students, children, the elderly and the disabled are more important than the full faith and credit of the United States. If he says yes, independents will desert him in droves. If he says no, Teabaggers will.
Great job, Speaker Boehner, and thank you! When the president wins re-election and if Democrats take over the House, we will have this orange man to thank.