Gang of Six - Cartoon

Gang of Six - Cartoon by DonkeyHotey


I think people are getting a little theatrical about this Boehner showdown, with their focused whip counts and the like. The Washington Post says Boehner is still looking for votes, but I’m really not sweating this. It turns out that Boehner actually needs 216 votes, not 217, because Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) is out of the office today, recovering from colon cancer surgery, along with Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). The rule for debate passed pretty easily, with 238 votes in favor. Could Boehner lose 22 votes on the final passage? I suppose he could, but I’m not really seeing it.

The road from there is a bit uncertain, but you can see the contours. After Boehner’s bill barely passes, it gets killed by the Senate, and some compromise between the two very similar bills is reached. But of course, this is Washington, so some opportunist is looking to throw a wrench into this delicate dance. Enter Kent Conrad:

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said Thursday that he expects both the Republicans and Democrats’ current deficit proposals to fail.

When they do, he said, the Gang of Six — a bipartisan group of senators who have negotiated their own deficit deal — would be ready with a draft of their its proposal [...]

“Reality is that both sides have to see that their favorite position cannot prevail,” Conrad said. “It’s at that point you can reach a principled compromise. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re very close.”

The Gang of Six is “going to be prepared to be a part of the solution” once the deadlock happens, Conrad said. The group of senators has a draft that is undergoing revision by “the staffs of all the members,” he said.

You have to question Conrad’s sanity at this point. CBO couldn’t commit to scoring the Gang of Six proposal, really just a five-page outline, two weeks out. Now with just days left before the debt limit is reached, he wants to pull this back out?

The compromise position is already at hand; the Reid and Boehner plans have very few differences (though this is one that I hope gets ironed out). And anyway, Conrad would almost certainly be the co-chair of the “Super Congress” (if they just take the heads of the two budget committees, you’d have Conrad-Ryan), and he can trot out his Gang of Six plan at that point. But forcing it into the endgame of a debate where so much can go wrong seems just completely stupid to me.

As I said the other day, blame the Gang of Six.