House Speaker John Boehner still has to cross a few things off his to-do list before he’s allowed to say good-bye to Congress forever: (1) Find replacement. (2) Save economy. However, many Americans already seem to like him better now that they know the Ohio Republican is as sick of dealing with Congress as they are.
According to a new Gallup survey, Boehner’s approval rating has jumped from 23 percent in August — the lowest point it ever reached during his tenure — to 31 percent, heights he hasn’t seen since the beginning of last year. His approval rating remained unchanged among the nation’s Republicans, but independents and Democrats are suddenly much more fond of him.
Now, 45 percent of the country still has an unfavorable opinion of the soon-to-be-retired elected official, but when many of your colleagues have spent months griping about how much they hate you, you take goodwill where you can find it. However, the shiny-happy forgiveness of the American people may not last if Congress fails to raise the debt limit in the upcoming weeks — the last big vote that Boehner will have to force-feed his fractious party before he lets it all go, turning away and slamming the door, realizing that distance makes everything seem small.
If that wasn’t difficult enough on its own, a Cutthroat Kitchen–style handicap has been thrown at Congress. Treasury secretary Jack Lew warned Congress today that the U.S. is set to hit the debt ceiling two days earlier than he expected. Now Congress has only until November 3, taking away valuable time to wait until the last minute before rushing to stave off the "political equivalent of a dumpster fire" that awaits us if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, the federal government won’t be able to pay bills, its workers, or soldiers and Social Security checks. Raising the debt ceiling doesn’t give the federal government a thumbs-up to start spending money on new things — it only makes sure that the federal government is able to fulfill its obligations and pay for things it has already approved.
In case that didn’t sound scary enough, Lew wrote a letter to Boehner, who planned on leaving D.C. on October 30, noting that "In the absence of congressional action, Treasury would be unable to satisfy all of these obligations for the first time in the history of the United States." Or, translated out of bureaucrat-ese, "Dude, this would be a historically bad way to end your career."
Congress is on recess this week, but Politico reported yesterday that Boehner is planning to quickly do something about the debt limit next week. A few GOP politicians think the debt-limit deadline, growing ever closer, is just the Obama administration’s way of forcing legislators to do what it wants. Senator Susan Collins told Politico, “It is interesting, which is a polite word, that all of a sudden the administration moved up considerably the timing of when the debt limit needs to be extended. What I’ve found over the years is that the date on which the debt limit truly has to be increased seems to be a very squishy date that often changes depending on the political winds.”
Congressional Republicans usually try to get a few spending decreases legislated along with a debt-limit increase, but there may not be time for that this year — which is not going to make his conservative colleagues happy. A Boehner spokesperson told the AP yesterday, "the Speaker has made it clear that he wants to solve some outstanding issues before he leaves. No decisions have been made, but a resolution on the debt ceiling is certainly possible."
The Wall Street Journal asked 64 economists whether they thought the government was screwed and definitely on the verge of default. “Not enough wackos to do that," one said, another added, “They are not THAT irresponsible.”
With only a few weeks left for things to be resolved, we’ll see if they’re right.