House Republicans will likely vote to raise the debt limit for three months Wednesday, a temporary retreat they are spinning as a brilliant chess move to trap Democrats into either defending government spending or accepting big cuts. Republicans think raising the debt limit until May "will essentially reorder the legislative fights in [the GOP's] favor," Politico's Jake Sherman reports, because they'll be able to focus on the sequester and the budget. Sherman reports that in Republicans' closed meeting Tuesday, lawmakers presented this as great strategy. Rep. Jim Jordan called it a "tactical move to get a solution." Michigan Rep. Bill Huizenga said, "We’ve got to set ourselves up to go for their king and their queen and this does that." Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy predicted "What they’ll say after that vote tomorrow: 'This is the day of the comeback.'"
But this chess move doesn't seem to make Republicans' lives easier in the long run — and by the long run, we mean three months. You'd think a small, temporary retreat on the debt ceiling would make things easier for Republican congressional leaders, because it would reduce the number of promises that are impossible to keep. But in their retreat, Republican leaders have made promises that put them in a more difficult position. In exchange for the debt-limit increase, House Speaker John Boehner has promised conservatives he will do two things that will be difficult to do. The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman reports, those are 1) either allow $110 billion in automatic spending cuts to take effect in March or find other cuts equal to that amount, and 2) pass a budget that balances in 10 years. "Those with the influence look me in the eye and say this House will produce a budget that balances in 10 years. And there’s gonna be some tough stuff in there, but it’s telling the truth, it’s reality," Rep. David Schweikert told Roll Call's Jonathan Strong. "This is going to be the ultimate test of the relevancy of those we entrust with those leadership positions. And I believe there’d be hell to pay if they squander this."
But as New York's Jonathan Chait explains, it will be very difficult to make the math work for a balanced budget within 10 years. Paul Ryan's budgets dramatically shrunk the size of federal spending, and they still took 30 years to balance. Even the House GOP's smaller negotiating tactics seem unlikely to help them get what they want. They wait to require the Senate to pass a budget by mid-April, Politico reports, or else their pay will be withheld. This doesn't seem like much of a motivator, because the Senate is a millionaire's club. They don't need their salaries to pay the rent.