The Odds of a Budget Deal in September Just Keep Getting Worse and Worse

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Lori Montgomery reports that the folks who actually get down in the trenches and negotiate budget deals for Republicans are fleeing the capital:

With another showdown looming over the national debt, Washington insiders last month received some unsettling news: Rohit Kumar, a Republican aide who has played a key role in warding off disaster, is leaving Capitol Hill.

Kumar is the guy who came up with a way to sell a $700 billion bank bailout to anxious lawmakers in 2008 when the financial system was collapsing. And he’s the guy who figured out how to let conservatives raise the debt limit while voting against it in 2011 when the nation was days away from default.

….In addition to losing Kumar, McConnell has lost his longtime floor general, Dave Schiappa, who left after nearly three decades to take a job as vice president at the Duberstein Group, a downtown lobbying firm. And House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has lost his chief negotiator, Brett Loper, a policy expert who came close to hammering out a grand bargain with the White House in 2011. Loper left in June to become a lobbyist for American Express.

Democrats are disturbed by Kumar’s departure in particular: “If you have to do business with the dark side, it’s better to negotiate with an evil genius than with someone who only knows how to say no and doesn’t understand the details,” said one Obama aide who, for obvious reasons, declined to say this on the record.

So how are things going to go in September? Will budget and debt ceiling deals get made? Here are the reasons for optimism:

  • A fair number of Republicans think it would be suicidal to shut down the government.

And here are the reasons for pessimism:

  • The tea party has gotten tired of constant betrayal by Republican leaders and is more hunkered down than ever.
  • Mitch McConnell, who cut several of the most recent deals, is in a tough primary fight and can’t afford to be seen as a compromiser this year.
  • John Boehner doesn’t have even a pretense of control over his caucus anymore.
  • The exodus of top aides who actually did the spadework makes negotiations more polarizing than ever.
  • An awful lot of Republicans seem dead serious about this business of passing a budget only if it repeals Obamacare.
  • House Republicans have already demonstrated an inability to get agreement within their own caucus for even a fairly simple appropriations bill.

OK, I’ll stop now. Let’s just say that things look grim. The tea party lunatics are madder than ever, the guys in the trenches have given up, and the Republican leadership is MIA. Against that we have a few columnists bringing up the specter of 1995. But that was 18 years ago. For the modern conservative crowd, that might as well have been the Middle Ages. They’re eager for a showdown, and I have a feeling they’re going to get one.

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