the national interest

House Republicans Make Saddest Hostage Threat Ever

FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2007 file photo, Leeland Eisenberg talks about strapping a fake bomb to himself and taking people hostage at the Rochester, N.H. presidential campaign office of Hillary Rodham Clinton, during an interview from the Strafford County Jail in Dover, N.H. Eisenberg, who took hostages at a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign office in 2007, escaped from a minimum-security correctional facility on Sunday, April 7, 2013 authorities said. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)
This is not a finger! It’s a gun! I will shoot you with it! Don’t make me fire this fing – gun! It’s a gun! Photo: Jim Cole

Unbelievably, House Republicans again claim they’re going to threaten to trigger a default crisis next month unless President Obama offers them policy concessions of some kind. Unlike 2011, they’re no longer arguing that raising the debt ceiling is a bad thing that increases the debt. And unlike 2013, they’re not arguing that they have some kind of right to demand concessions in return for releasing the world economy as a hostage. No, instead they’re arguing that Obama has to give them concessions, as some kind of immutable mathematical fact, reports The Wall Street Journal:

aides and lawmakers say party leaders believe a “clean” debt-ceiling bill, devoid of policy demands, can’t pass the Republican controlled House.

 The two parameters are that we cannot default, and a clean debt-ceiling increase cannot pass the House,” said Illinois Rep. Pete Roskam, a member of the House GOP leadership.

A clean debt-ceiling bill can’t pass the House, you say? Then how come a clean debt-ceiling bill passed the House three months ago by a vote of 285–144? And how come, nine months before that, a clean debt-ceiling increase passed the House by the same margin? The Journal reports on the demands being hopefully floated by various Republican factions without mentioning at any point that the House did in fact raise the debt ceiling without policy concessions the last two times.

There’s an old movie in which Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater take Danny DeVito’s wife hostage, but the ploy fails because they’re too nice to kill anybody (plus, DeVito really hates his wife). Eventually they figure out that if you threaten to kill the hostage, and the other guy refuses to pay up, then you have to go through with it:

Two years ago, the demands were for trillions of dollars in cuts. Then it became “the Boehner Rule,” which was the Speaker’s made-up requirement that the House would demand equal-size spending cuts every time it lifted the debt ceiling. Now they’re just floating a bunch of scattershot attacks on Obamacare, without even the pretext of reducing the debt, which was the whole rationale for threatening a crisis in the first place. (Remember? Republicans insisted the national debt posed such an urgent threat to the economy that crazy steps were required to prevent the imminent Greece-ization of the United States.)

But you can only try this bluff once. The only way it could still work would be if Obama either paid a ransom or Republicans shot the hostage. Once the mark knows you’re bluffing, it’s over. You can’t do it again. Nobody is falling for this.

Republicans Make Saddest Hostage Threat Ever