Following a brief meeting with their caucus Wednesday morning, House Republican leaders appeared before the media to announce two things: the rumored six-week extension of the debt ceiling would be proposed, and an upcoming meeting with President Obama was an important victory for their side.
Multiple reports over the last 24 hours suggested that Republicans were leaning toward lifting the debt ceiling for a brief period in order to both avoid default and allow more time for negotiations. Republican caucus chair Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers referred to that proposal — which, it seems, is probably still in the draft stage.
But McMorris-Rodgers was quicker to celebrate the invitation extended by the White House as the real victory. "The president has invited the House Republicans to have a discussion about the way forward," she said. "That's why we are going to offer legislation that will offer a temporary increase in the debt ceiling to allow us some time to continue this conversation, because it's time for solutions." That last phrase was echoed in the hashtag that decorated the podium from which she spoke: #Time4Solutions. Majority Leader Eric Cantor joined her in that praise: "I'm pleased today that we have had an invitation from the White House to actually begin to" talk. The meeting at the White House to which Cantor refers includes leaders of the House Republican caucus — and at least one member of its strident conservative wing: Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
"Nobody gets everything they want" from negotiations, House Speaker Boehner noted. One thing that may not emerge from the current negotiations over the debt ceiling is, oddly, more negotiations. The House Republicans seem content to allow the shutdown to continue until larger-scale negotiations take place; in the wake of their announcement Wednesday morning, the White House stated that it wouldn't hold such talks until the government was re-opened. It is, however, receptive to the extension without amendments, according to economic advisor Gene Sperling.
In other words, this may end up being little more than a kicking of the can down the road, moving further discussions on the debt ceiling and the shutdown to Thanksgiving, when the same fights will reemerge. Though it's not clear that the popularity of Republicans in Congress — or Democrats — could survive a delay of that length.
The press conference ended on an unusual note. Asked if House Republicans would reopen the government even without changes to Obamacare, Boehner replied: "If ands and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas." We assume he meant "ifs and buts."