We've been trying something different, as Congress has been pretending to nearly shut down the government or arbitrarily destroy the global economic system for the fourth time this year: Not biting! They'll always reach an agreement, after acting out a months-long scripted fight that we've seen before. But now we're at the stage when children lawmakers begin channeling action movies for inspiration, so we'll take that as our cue.
A brief summary of the payroll tax cut/unemployment benefits/government funding extension battle until now: President Obama and Democrats wanted to extend last year's "temporary" (they'll never let it expire) employer-side payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits for another year, as their last legislative shot to juice the economy before reelection time, along with other assorted things they pass every year like the "doc fix" for Medicare reimbursement rates; Republicans saw that President Obama and Democrats wanted something and held out in order to extract some goodies after making Obama's life a living hell for a while; Democrats tried to apply leverage by linking it to the next round of government funding and offsetting the extensions' cost with a surtax on millionaires, giving them an excuse to say "Republicans will allow taxes on middle-class people to go up $1,000 if they insist on protecting the rich"; Republicans immediately knew that Democrats weren't credibly committed to this threat, because they never are, and continued holding out; Democrats proved Republicans right by endorsing a two-month extension to continue working on it instead of carrying out its threat to let everything expire and blame Republicans; the Senate overwhelmingly passed that two-month extension; House Republicans saw that people were starting to agree on things and decided to say "no"; and now here we are. Oh, and somewhere along the way Republicans managed to drive a wedge between Obama and environmentalists.
In the debt ceiling fight it was at this same late-game juncture — when House Republicans were holding up a compromise bill and feeling the heat — that they channeled a scene from Ben Affleck's The Town to motivate themselves. This time around, it's Braveheart:
"I've got a flight out of [Georgia] in about two hours. We're all coming back, that's what everybody told Speaker Boehner on the conference call Saturday when we heard about this fiasco of a two-month extension voted on by the Senate," Gingrey said. "We were literally shocked."
"Out of 75 responses, there may have been one person that thought it was OK that we would put the fight off until two months from now," he continued. "Everybody else said, 'Look, this is a 'Braveheart' moment. You, Mr. Speaker, are our William Wallace. Let's rush to the fight. Get us back to Washington, let's get to our work and we're doing that.' "
"Ha ha Republicans," you say, but Democrats have been doing the Braveheart thing for years.
And the rest of this fight, indeed, should play out exactly as Braveheart did: William Boehner Wallace will rally his troops with an invigorating speech before heading into the final battle, in which the House and Senate reject each others' bills and choose to mesh them in conference committee where they'll tweak a few pay-fors.
[Image via AP]