Time's Newton Small Praises 'Harry Reid's Canny Waiting Game'

July 27th, 2011 11:39 AM

If her gig at Time magazine doesn't work out, Jay Newton Small could always try working in Harry Reid's press shop.

She certainly knows how to butter up the Senate majority leader. Witness Newton Small's latest Swampland blog post at Time.com where she denounces House Republican debt ceiling plans as "histrionics" while forecasting a resolution to the debt ceiling deadlock that has Reid saving the day (emphasis mine):

The House on Thursday is expected to vote on its latest iteration of a debt ceiling increase matched with spending cuts. With less than a week left before the government starts suspending services to avoid default, the Senate has yet to act. This is because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is patiently waiting for the House to finish its latest round of histrionics– Thursday’s vote will likely be their fourth doomed effort to hike the debt-limit this time around — before he proceeds with his legislation.

Of course the real reason House efforts are doomed is because Democrats won't even play ball, tabling Cut, Cap and Balance rather than debating it and offering amendments to tweak the proposal. Reid has consistently refused to move the ball forward by offering anything on the floor and the media have portrayed Republicans as unwillingly to compromise when Senate Democrats are equally if not more inflexible when it comes to long-term debt solutions.

But to Newton Small, Reid's inaction is worthy of praise, not condemnation:

With the House and the Senate advancing two competing plans, whichever chamber votes first has the greatest risk of failure. And if one plan fails, the other is strengthened. At the moment, Reid doesn’t have seven GOP votes to get his bill past a filibuster in the Senate. That’s why he’s hanging back and still talking to Republicans. “I told my caucus today, not a few minutes ago, any input you have from your Republican friends,” Reid said on Tuesday, “I’m open to compromise.” While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Reid plan, as it is now, “should fail,” his No. 2 Senator Jon Kyl told reporters that bipartisan talks are ongoing behind the scenes. If and when the Boehner bill fails — be it in the House on Thursday or later in the Senate, Reid becomes the last man standing in the debt debate. With the clock ticking, the House will likely have to swallow whatever the Senate passes.

How can this be, you may ask, if the House can’t even pass Boehner’s plan? Because Democrats would support the Reid proposal. “Reid’s plan is not the plan I would’ve been for, it’s not the plan I like,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday, but it “would get very close to all of our members’” votes. Which would mean that Boehner would only have to deliver 30 or 40 Republicans – a much easier lift than 217 (a majority with two vacancies in the House).

House Republicans moan that the Reid bill is full of “gimmicks”: $400 billion in assumed interest savings from smaller deficits and $1 trillion from drawing down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Republicans in both chambers have already used the budgeting tricks from Reid’s plan in past bills authored by the GOP. The House bill, meanwhile, would pass $1.2 trillion in cuts now and would form a commission to find another $1.8 trillion in cuts before the end of the year. Democrats – and market experts – argue that coming back at this again in the middle of an election season would not only be harder, but that another round of brinkmanship would further undermine confidence in the U.S. economy.

For months, Republicans have blasted Reid for not putting forward a deficit reduction plan. But if Reid manages to push his proposal through both chambers, his decision to wait would be vindicated; Congress would get its debt-ceiling deal, and Reid would get credit for averting economic Armageddon.

Of course the media would most certainly give Reid the political credit for averting a supposed debt ceiling disaster, but that is a far different matter the long-term policy implications of the Reid deal, especially given how credit rating agencies have warned the U.S. credit rating is at risk not simply because of the debt ceiling deadlock but because of its inability to get serious about debt reduction.