Boehner might not have the votes for a "clean" debt-ceiling hike either

Yet. He might not have the votes yet. They’re not going to hit the ceiling with an election eight months away.

But the fact that the Speaker himself, who rarely votes, feels he needs to lead by example this time shows you how reluctant the rest of the caucus is.

Why didn’t Plan B, repealing the reduced COLA adjustment to military pensions enacted under Paul Ryan’s budget, unite the caucus? Everyone can get behind more money for the troops, no? Roll Call:

Republican leaders were caught between White House and Democratic demands for a clean hike and Republican conservatives who didn’t want to vote for any hike, and still others who were angry that they would have to choose whether to vote to support the troops or vote against raising the debt limit. Other Republicans complained that the plan would effectively increase spending for nine years only to cut it in the tenth year by extending part of the sequester — when many wanted more cuts sooner.

Believe it or not, according to NBC, there were no more than 40-50 Republican votes for Plan B. I think Conn Carroll’s right: Ultimately, Republicans couldn’t stomach the idea that their big debt-ceiling gambit had now produced as a core “demand” a measure that would actually increase spending. It’s not about shafting the troops; the COLA adjustment will be repealed in a separate bill before long. It was the realization that their debt-limit brinksmanship, which has grown increasingly hollow ever since the first standoff in 2011, had now reached the point of farce, with the party holding out for more money for government just so that it could claim some sort of victory if Obama and Reid caved. The GOP’s going to get what it wants eventually on military pensions and on Keystone approval irrespective of what happens with the debt ceiling, in which case, why treat them as “demands” at all? It’s a charade. If the party’s resolved not to risk a ferocious public backlash by driving a hard bargain on a meaningful proposal to cut spending and then standing firm as the debt limit is reached, why bother demanding anything? Just let Democrats and a few dozen fidgety centrist Republicans pass a clean hike and be done with it.

Candidly, though, I still don’t understand why they couldn’t get to 218 for repealing ObamaCare’s “risk corridor,” i.e. bailout, provisions. Yeah, the insurance industry was lobbying hard against it behind the scenes. So what? Democrats would have blocked it anyway. Even in the left’s worst-case scenario, where it passed both chambers of Congress, Obama would have vetoed it. Why not put him, Reid, and all those vulnerable red-state Democrats in the Senate who would have had to vote on it on the spot by passing it in the House? If you’re a Republican who’s vowed never to raise the debt ceiling under any circumstances, you could have rested assured that this bill would fail while causing some pain for your opponents. And if you’re troubled by the fact that CBO said the “risk corridor” is on track to raise revenue for Uncle Sam, not lose it, you could have tweaked the bill so that it made the “risk corridor” budget-neutral instead of repealing it wholesale. It would have been a useful bludgeon this fall, especially if CBO’s projections turned out to be wrong. Alas.

Exit question: Is this the end of Republican debt-ceiling brinksmanship, once and for all? In theory, the leadership might feel bolder next year after the midterms have passed; in practice, there’s simply no reason to believe that Boehner or McConnell will ever allow Treasury to hit the ceiling. They’ll always swallow hard and let Democrats pass a clean debt-limit hike instead. Better to abandon this method of negotiation than keep farking that chicken with phony standoffs whose outcome is a fait accompli.