The characters in the Netflix series “House of Cards” seem more capable of putting America on track to a bright fiscal future than their real-life Washington counterparts.
It stands in stark contrast to the actual lawmakers, who just granted President Obama a limitless debt ceiling, with no spending reforms and the prospect of financial ruin.
In the second season of “House of Cards,” Democratic President Garrett Walker struggles to prepare his State of the Union speech, which he will deliver just a day before a scheduled government shutdown — called a “freeze” on the show — due to spending battles with the Republican Senate.
Newly appointed Vice President Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey) offers to negotiate a deal with the GOP to keep the government open in exchange for entitlement reform.
Underwood then goes to Capitol Hill to meet with the Republican Senate majority leader, but the deciding votes in the caucus are controlled Sen. Curtis Haas, the Tea Party leader.
Haas, clearly modeled after Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, shakes hands with Underwood on a “deal” that raises the minimum and normal retirement age for entitlements to 64 and 68, respectively, in five years.
However, Haas soon goes back on his word, which forces the devious veep to come up with a complicated scheme using obscure Senate rules to make the bill immune to filibuster.
When the GOP members leave the floor to prevent a quorum, Underwood has the sergeant at arms bring six of them back to the floor in handcuffs. The big compromise passes with a simple majority.
It then passes the House with some Democratic support and is proudly announced by President Walker in his address to Congress.
Basically, the fictional Washington Democrats went through with a bipartisan deal, which the the real-life ones refused to even negotiate.
In 2011, House Speaker John A. Boehner tried to get President Obama to accept entitlement reform in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in a so-called “grand bargain.”
House Republicans pushed the same concept in the ensuing negotiations in the bicameral “supercommittee,” but it failed because Democrats insisted on tax hikes.
Congress has since given the president three debt-ceiling increases without any fiscal discipline attached.
The most recent bump up last week gave Mr. Obama exactly what he demanded in his State of the Union address: a “clean” debt-ceiling increase with unlimited spending until March 2015, with no spending reforms.