House Speaker John Boehner laid down a marker in a speech in New York last night: In any agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling, there must be a level of spending reductions which exceeds the amount of the increase in borrowing power.
The marker is pretty ambiguous however, as it does not specify the length of time over which those required cuts would have to be totaled. Thus the “demand” cannot become a measuring stick of Boehner’s success provided he gets a total number of future cuts, whether they are occurring in one year or 10.
That said, the speech was a welcome attempt to convey a very tough stand, though not as tough as Jon Kyl’s demand for $6 trillion in cuts over 10 years.
The Speaker and his leadership team remain largely out of view of the new media, preferring MSM drop-bys and old school appearances like last night’s by the Speaker to the Economic Club of New York. This is part of the House GOP’s problem in mobilizing support for the Ryan budget and for the looming debt limit fight: It won’t step out from the safe and the familiar and step into the fray using all the means open to it to explain, expand and sell the urgency of the moment.
After a stumbling start witht he tax and budget deals the House GOP is now beset by what looks like chaos on the budget within the GOP caucus, Team Boehner has a chance to reframe the debate over the fiscal crisis through the debt negotiations. If last night’s speech was the first of many attempts to rally public opinion to seriousness on spending reduction, it was a good start. If the Speaker vanishes, and with him Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, only to reappear at the end of the meetings with a deal that disappoints, it is hard to imagine anyone rallying to the House GOP’s standards down the road.