The GOP’s short-term debt-ceiling hike: A good first step that’s already working
Even more important is the beginning of the return to regular order. For two years the President and Leader Reid allied to bypass the standard legislative process and instead force fiscal policy to be negotiated in ad hoc private talks between the President and Speaker Boehner. This bill looks likely to produce a regular order two-fer: the President is largely on the sidelines on the details of this bill, and the Senate Democratic majority appears headed toward reestablishing the normal budget process.
By setting the next debt limit deadline in mid-May, well after the sequester is triggered, the continuing resolution expires, and the budget resolution deadlines, this bill reorders the 2013 fiscal debates in a way that is advantageous to spending cutters. You want to have your strongest legislative levers up front, and if this bill becomes law they will be in the right order: sequester, then CR, with the weakest lever of debt limit last. That doesn’t mean that spending cutters will be able to force the President to fix everything, but at least they’re maximizing their leverage.
And if it works this time, as it appears likely it will, House Republicans can then repeat this tactic a few months from now. The challenge at that point will be coming up with and uniting around a similarly beneficial but modest fiscal policy change to attach to the next short-term increase. If conservatives want to pick a knockdown spending fight with the President, they’re better off doing that on the sequester and/or CR.