positing 11-dimensional chess to explain US politicians' choices is a losing game, usually.

with that as caveat, i think the biden administration's strategy is to tempt republicans into a set of demands that can be portrayed to the public as unreasonable and extortionate.

that creates *political* justification to defang the debt ceiling, using any of the variety of technical and legal workarounds available (and probably the ones Biden hasn't publicly discussed at all so far). 1/


@interfluidity The simpler 5D chess move might be baiting the Republicans' extortionate demands and then *let them* shut down the government over those stupid reasons and make sure voters know it.

@LouisIngenthron i'm not sure a government shutdown (as the Republicans sometimes foolishly talk themselves into during budget negotiations) is an option on the table here. i think it relies on statute that allows debt payments and "essential operations" or "skeleton staffs" to continue to operate if no budget is passed, but there's not something like that for the debt ceiling. 1/

@LouisIngenthron if i'm right (i may not be!), then the only path to avoid a debt ceiling breach without an overt Treasury default becomes "payment prioritization" — the government pays some bills, but not others.

and that may be the plan! if Republicans can be painted as unreasonable enough, the President might get away with overtly nonpaying things Republicans especially prioritize while holding Treasury debt and Democratic priorities harmless. 2/

@LouisIngenthron under ordinary circumstances, a Democrat would not be allowed to get away with using overt, discretionary executive power to favor their own coalition.

Trump did it openly, but the press demands Democrats be institutionalists, while it expects Republicans to be manly caudillos whose hypocrisies and hard-ball are right and natural. 3/

@LouisIngenthron but if the negotiations can make the Republicans look aggressive enough, perhaps they can get away with it as an aggressive defense. (and how could the Supreme Court respond? they won't want to do the legally right thing, which would be to invalidate any prioritization, because *pro rata* nonpayment would default Treasuries. if stiffing some but not others must be legal, are the Supremes going to claim the right to micromanage who gets the shaft? /fin

@interfluidity Wait, do we not have a precedent? Didn't this happen for a few months less than a decade ago?

@LouisIngenthron yes, but i'm pretty sure the context was a budget impasse, not a debt ceiling standoff.

@LouisIngenthron failing to pass a budget provokes a soft "shutdown". government workers get furloughed, services get bare-boned, people get mad and madder over time.

failing to raise the debt ceiling, though, provokes people not getting paid what they are owed, for work they do or have done, or for US debt that they hold. it's a harder cliff.

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