Many of you have written to me to ask me: is it possible that the White House negotiated knowing that McCarthy would be forced to make unreasonable demands, which led to the House Republican Party closing the door to negotiations? In other words, did they negotiate knowing they would get credit for coming to the negotiating table and forcing the Republicans to leave?
Is it possible?
I usually have a pretty intuitive understanding of political battles. In this case, no. It’s not clear to me what’s going on, what’s going to happen, and to what extent different players have a plan at all. About the hypothetical above: I doubt that the White House will enter into negotiations with the expectation and hope that they will fail. It is more likely that they decided to probe for a reasonable deal, knowing that the Republicans were likely to derail the negotiations themselves. In this case, they get their sanity/maturity back on credit from DC power, which is inexpensive.
I will say that one can see the increase in declared support for the 14th Amendment decision by Democratic senators to have something to do with it. Even Angus King, a very centrist big deal type, has expressed a growing openness to the idea. There were also various contrived comments by Biden and Yellen about the emergency measures. If you squint a little, you can see that these moving parts are connected to each other in some way. It is equally likely that they are completely unrelated – or at least not coordinated.
Kevin McCarthy’s decision to “suspend” negotiations seemingly out of nowhere is just a character behind the scenes that we’ve been talking about all this time. McCarthy was never authorized to make a deal in any reasonable territory. The hosts of the Freedom House meeting pulled him by the leash, and that was it. For the past couple of days, they’ve been signaling they don’t want a compromise. They want the Senate to pass the House bill. Perhaps they could be bought a little cheaper. But this is the universe in which they operate. He was a negotiator; he was a chasing horse.
So, back to the original question: is it possible? Yes, it is possible, and it has always been a real possibility. (See our discussion with Kate Riga in this week’s block.) But I don’t really understand what’s going on here. The only thing that is clear, and has always been clear, is that Kevin McCarthy cannot hold his own meeting. They negotiate with him, but the train is actually run by the Freedom Caucus.