The latest sign that there isn’t going to be a budget default
New polling says Americans overwhelmingly oppose the idea of House Republicans causing a default. This is yet anther indicator that a default very likely won’t happen. The insurrectionist House Republicans cannot cause a default unless they have 218 or more House Republicans on board with wanting a default. And there are simply too many House Republicans seeking reelection in swing districts who know that triggering a default would mean near-automatically losing their seats in 2024.
The key to understanding Republicans, and predicting their behavior, is to remember that they don’t simply do the most villainous thing or the most harmful thing they can think of. It never works that way. They do the most selfish thing they can think of, without regard for whether it’s good or bad for anyone else. There’s nothing more selfish than wanting to get reelected. And there are simply too many House Republicans who care more about getting themselves reelected than they do about helping the insurrectionist Republicans carry out a default stunt.
The “no matter what” crowd is already insisting that “Marjorie Taylor Greene will convince Kevin McCarthy to trigger a default no matter what.” But this notion applies magical powers to Greene and McCarthy that they simply do not have. If there are enough House Republicans who want to cave at the last minute, McCarthy cannot just refuse to hold a vote and have it magically work out in his favor. The House Republicans who want a vote would force him to hold a vote by threatening to go public with their dissent (which would be the end of McCarthy) if he doesn’t hold a vote.
This stuff is quite honestly pretty simple. The only possible way there could be a default is if 218 or more House Republicans want a default. And since that scenario would involve at least a couple dozen House Republicans in swing districts deciding to lose reelection and throw their own careers away just to please Marjorie Taylor Greene, it’s pretty obvious why it’s not a realistic scenario.
All that said, this will likely get dragged out until the last minute. Even the House Republicans who intend to cave in the end will likely decide to hold out for as long as they can, in the hope of creating as much fear and panic as possible, in the hope of getting the most concessions for their side when they do cave.
So yes, this is likely to come down to the wire – as negotiations of this type always do. But it’s highly unlikely that there will be a default, because the votes aren’t there for a default. These things always come down to math. And Republican math is always based on reelection prospects, and no other factors. For all of the words that come out of Republicans’ mouths, all they really care about is getting reelected – because without that, their personal gravy train is over. So you always start with how any given situation impacts each of their reelection prospects, and you work from there. Ignore what they say, and just focus on what they know they have to do to keep their reelection prospects alive.
Unfortunately, the gibberish you’re hearing about the budget standoff from the media and pundit class has almost zero correlation to how anything even works in politics, because that’s all just noise aimed at scaring you into providing the media with ratings and retweets. But in the real world, this budget story has likely already been written. It’ll come down to the last minute, but House Republicans in vulnerable districts will cave, McCarthy will have no recourse, and Biden will get most (not all) of what he wanted. I’m not inclined to spend every day writing about it until the deadline, because I still don’t see a story here. It’s all just noise.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report