Without disclosing details, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says she has a plan for dealing with the Republicans’ legislative hostage-taking strategy. In a meeting with a small group of reporters in her office Thursday morning, she said the dynamics of the debt limit fight — where Democrats were forced to accept deep cuts to government programs on the threat of default — will not happen again.
“Suffice to say that you won’t see a repetition of what happened last week, taking us to the last minute when they didn’t even have the votes — they didn’t even have the votes — and then saying to us ‘You will be responsible for a default,” Pelosi said in response to a question from TPM.
Pelosi was reluctant to spell out just how she would stave off this situation, however. “I would say that if I were to tell you…it would be defanged,” she said, after being pressed for details. “In terms of what we — how we would approach where they go from here. And that may be a House Democratic position…. Our members were very unhappy about that vote the other day. Very unhappy.”
Just how Democrats plan to proceed may ultimately depend on their willingness to stomach the unpleasant consequences of letting Republicans shoot the hostages. But in a revealing moment, Pelosi hinted Democrats may have reached their breaking point.
“[W]e wouldn’t let our country default,” Pelosi said. “But I’ll say it this way to you. A default is a much more serious consequence than a shutdown of government for a few days.”
“Expect us to be more visible in terms of what we say here and how we mobilize out side to make sure the Republicans know the risk of taking us to the brink,” she added, when asked to provide more details. “It’s to make it a completely unacceptable place for the Republicans to go because it will have public consequence.”
Even if Democrats are willing to go there, they’ll likely face another tough choice at the end of the year — between a deficit reduction package that Republicans are insisting contain no tax increases, and pulling the trigger on an enforcement mechanism that cuts Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and doctors, and slashes defense spending by half a trillion dollars. For now, Pelosi’s saying Dems will work hard to avoid that penalty. But their frustration is already rising.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is already furious that Republicans are setting this fight up to play out exactly as the debt limit fight did.
“So what does that leave the committee to do?” Reid told Politico. “Should Pelosi and I just not appoint and walk away?”
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.