Assuming all goes well with the Republicans' meeting at the White House on Thursday, Politico reports that Speaker John Boehner may be amenable to reopening the government during budget talks. Meaning, one, that Obama wins this round and, two, that the budget conversation has essentially been reset to mid-September, before Sen. Ted Cruz's de facto coup.
Here’s the House GOP plan, and the thinking behind it: Republicans would vote to lift the debt ceiling until Nov. 22 — just before the Thanksgiving recess — while prohibiting the Treasury Department from using extraordinary measures to lift the borrowing limit. The legislation will also set up a negotiation over the borrowing cap and government funding.
If that proposal works for Obama, "senior Republican sources say that Boehner could have enough internal political capital to move a bill next week to reopen government until Nov. 22." The time between now and November 22, then, would be used for the sort of high-level negotiations on the budget that both sides say they crave.
Please note: this is precisely what the president has advocated. While the timeframe is almost certainly shorter than Obama would have liked, he called for no negotiations until Republicans reopened government and lifted the debt ceiling. According to Politico, that could be in the cards. In fact, that extension is almost entirely in line with what Senate Democrats advocated in September: a funding bill that lasts until mid-November during which time both sides work out a bigger deal. Assuming that Republicans don't start thinking of this as a victory for Obama and balk, the Democratic victory is essentially complete, despite the enthusiasm displayed by the House Republican caucus on Thursday morning.
But for Boehner, there's also a huge benefit to setting up the fight this way. He gets a do-over! Instead of having to make the case that an emphasis on defunding Obamacare was perilous, that the GOP would suffer if the government were shut down for an extended period of time, he just has to jerk his thumb over his shoulder and suggest that they try another path. Boehner, you may recall, never wanted to pick this doomed fight over Obamacare. He wanted to do exactly what this new plan allows: come up with a compromise proposal leveraging the debt limit and the end of the fiscal year. But then Ted Cruz happened, and everything blew up.
Cruz's ascension to a position of leadership in the party has, in the tradition of past coups, been a failure. Despite Cruz's odd self-funded poll that he released on Wednesday, obliquely arguing that he was right all along, this entire thing has been a debacle for Cruz with everyone but the conservative base he hopes come to the polls in 2016. (And, apparently, for Cruz's partner-in-dissent, Utah Sen. Mike Lee.) According to Gallup, Cruz's popularity has undergone a 16-point swing to the negative since June.
So. We dust off our hands, turn back the clock (once it starts working again), and try this whole thing again. From the start of the shutdown there was speculation that Boehner just needed to let his right-wing members vent. Instead, they've been sitting around for ten days rapidly losing blood. When it comes to negotiations with the president, Boehner's position isn't too much worse than it was a month ago. But his ability to tell the far-right to shut up has improved enormously.
Update, 6:20 p.m.: It sounds as though the meeting may not have been the unalloyed success on which Politico's report was predicated.