Jacob Heilbrunn

Does John Boehner Speak for the House?

John Boehner is Speaker of the House, but does he speak for it? His brief tenure is at risk if the GOP does not pass his proposal to cut the deficit and raise the debt ceiling. Already the failure to pass it last night was a humiliation inflicted upon him by Tea Party stalwarts. Meanwhile, the latest figures show that the economy grew at an anemic 1.3 percent last quarter. Who or what is going to inject a shot of iron into it?

In a speech at the National Press Club, Michele Bachmann denounced the Boehner plan. "I refuse to be a party to deceiving the American people yet again," she said. Sarah Palin has also weighed to denounce, by implication, the Boehner plan: "Everyone I talk to still believes in contested primaries." In effect, Bachmann and Palin are doing Senate leader Harry Reid's work for him: if the bill never arrives, he doesn't even have to hold a vote killing it. He can just go ahead and present his plan as the last one standing.

President Obama has remained on the sidelines, at least until this morning. He's going to make a speech announcing...what? That he's going to use the 14th amendment to raise the debt unilaterally? Doubtful.

Maybe he'll announce something else: more time. The game will go into extra innings, if you're a baseball fan, or overtime, if you prefer football. According to the Los Angeles Times, the debt might not come due until August 8 or even August 15:

"They can go a little bit beyond Tuesday, but once we're into the second half of August … then we're in serious trouble," said Nancy Vanden Houten, senior analyst at Stone & McCarthy Research Associates in Princeton, N.J. She projected the government would be able to survive until Aug. 15, when $41 billion in payments are due, including $29 billion in interest on government securities. At that point, the Treasury would come up short, Vanden Houten said.

Wonderful. Will this actually result in any more progress? Doubtful again. The real date that everyone is running up against is 2012 when a new president is elected. It's not as though America's reputation can sink much lower around the world even if Congress keeps feuding. It's already sunk. It will be interesting to watch American presidents lecture other countries about their political and economic systems when their own is in chaos.