House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) held his weekly press conference this morning, most of which was devoted to ongoing fiscal talks. At one amusing point, the Republican leader complained that President Obama has failed to propose specific spending cuts, and 20 seconds later, said he wouldn't provide specific spending cuts.
But to my ear, the most important moment came at the 7:51 mark in this clip.
For those who can't watch clips online, Boehner was asked about a debt-ceiling increase.
"As I told the president a couple weeks ago, there's a lot of things I've wanted in my life, but almost all of them had a price tag attached to them. And, uh, if we're going to talk about the debt limit in this, then there's going to be some price tag associated with it.... I continue to believe that any increase in the debt limit has to be accompanied by spending reductions that meet or exceed it."
It's important to understand how insane this is, and the extent to which the Speaker of the House is, once again, holding the economic health of the nation hostage.
Let's briefly recap what happened last year, because it offers important context -- and offers a blueprint for where we're headed.
Almost immediately after being elevated to Speaker, Boehner clearly wanted no part of a debt-ceiling fight. He explained in November 2010, "I've made it pretty clear to [my caucus] that as we get into next year, it's pretty clear that Congress is going to have to deal with [the debt limit]. We're going to have to deal with it as adults. Whether we like it or not, the federal government has obligations and we have obligations on our part."
By April 2011, under pressure from the far-right, Boehner proclaimed, "There will not be an increase in the debt limit without something really, really big attached to it." He didn't name a price at the time.
As the crisis began in earnest, the Speaker named his "really, really big" price: for every dollar in debt-ceiling increase, Democrats had to give him a matching amount of spending cuts. It was an arbitrary decision -- for nine decades, every increase in the debt limit had passed in clean bills -- but Boehner made up his own standard and stuck to it.
The result was a scandal for the ages. Every congressional Republican -- literally, all of them -- threatened to destroy the economy on purpose and trash the full and faith credit of the United States unless Boehner's made-up standard was met.
And now, as of this morning, the Speaker is creating the same crisis for the same reason, relying on the same arbitrary standard. This profoundly stupid fiasco caused enormous damage to the nation's economy, debt rating, and international standing, and Boehner is making a conscious decision to do all of this to us, again, on purpose.
If you missed Rachel's take earlier in the week, it's well worth your time.
For those who can't watch clips online:
"We can have disagreements on matters of policy. We can disagree on the ideological tales we tell each other about how to get to the best outcomes for the country. We can even disagree about basic values about exactly what kind of country we ought to be.
"But the thing you can generally assume about everybody who is in public service is that they are public servants, right? They want the country to be better off. No matter how you want to get there. Whether or not some people think you're wrong or whether or not some people even think you're dumb or misinformed, there's a general assumption that if you're involved in American politics, that at least means that what you want is a good future for America.
"You're out to help America, not hurt America. You want America to be stronger and better and healthier. Hurting the country on purpose when you know that's what you're doing violates the most basic thing that we think we can assume about why people go into public service, why anybody would go into public service. I think it means that what you're doing can't even be called public service."