House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) doesn’t sound all that confident that his debt limit bill would pass the smell test with credit ratings agencies, all of which are watching this debate closely.
At his weekly Capitol briefing, a reporter asked him if he believed his legislation, if enacted would allow the U.S. to maintain its AAA credit rating. Boehner wouldn’t bite. “That is beyond my control,” he said. “All I know is that this bipartisan bill is as large a step as we’re able to take at this point in time that is doable, and signable and to become law.”
In a strictly literal sense, this is true — it’s not within his power to determine what Moody’s or S&P does whenever this standoff ends. It’s also worth noting that what the ratings agencies do is often inscrutable, can be arbitrary, and is not immune to outside pressures, as we saw in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. But it’s a stretch for him to suggest his actions have no influence over what the agencies do: if he’d agreed to a “grand bargain” with President Obama, he’d confidently be able to predict the country’s current rating would stand. If his plan didn’t portend yet more debt limit brinksmanship in a few months, he’d be on firmer ground than he is now.
Boehner did tacitly acknowledge that his plan might change, though. Pressed whether his debt limit bill is a “take it or leave it” proposition for Democrats, Boehner would only say, “we have a reasonable responsible approach, there is no reason for anyone to object to it.”
Asked whether the House would be in session this weekend, after (presumably) passing his plan, he said “sure.”
So we’ll have another round of this.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.