As they have at every possibility opportunity since 2011, Republicans are once again manufacturing a crisis in order to demand policies rejected by the American people. This time, however, they are innovating by trying to manufacture two crises at almost precisely the same time. Speaker Boehner (R-OH) has warned Democrats and President Obama to prepare for “a whale of a fight.”
First, the government runs out of the authority to spend money on September 30 and will shut down unless Congress acts. Dozens and dozens of Republicans are calling for just such a shutdown unless Obamacare is defunded and millions of Americans are denied the security of quality, affordable health care. They are also suggesting that Democrats must agree to lock-in painful and economically damaging sequester cuts.
(House Republicans have responded to the urgency of this situation by taking a five-week vacation and scheduling just nine days of work during the entire month of September.)
It gets worse.
The Treasury Department announced yesterday that the nation’s debt limit, the authority to borrow money to pay for spending Congress has already voted for, will be reached sometime in mid-October. This is weeks or even months sooner than some had anticipated.
Just for the record: Congress already racked up these bills and it needs to raise the debt limit in order to pay them. Period. End of story. No argument.
Nevertheless, Boehner promised Republican donors yesterday that he intends to repeat the disastrous debt limit crisis the GOP manufactured in 2011. That crisis brought us to the brink of an economy-destroying default on our obligations, actually increased the national debt, led to the first-ever downgrade of the nation’s credit rating, and dealt a severe blow to the economy.
Boehner reportedly even acknowledged how bad things were last time the GOP took the economy hostage:
Recalling the 2011 battle over raising the federal debt ceiling, Boehner recalled negotiations that spooked financial markets, prompted Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the U.S. credit rating and angered ordinary Americans. He warned the audience to expect more of the same.
“I wish I could tell you it was going to be pretty and polite, and it would all be finished a month before we’d ever get to the debt ceiling. Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way,” Boehner said
As MSNBC’s Steve Benen noted today, Republicans are the only thing standing in the way of it working that way:
Well, it could work that way, and it used to work that way. Between 1939 and 2010, Congress raised the debt limit 89 times. In recent years, many of those votes were cast by a guy named John Boehner. Neither party took Americans hostage; neither party demanded a ransom. That was before the radicalization of the Republican Party, at which point threatening to trash the full faith and credit of the United States on purpose became acceptable.
In the past even Boehner himself has repeatedly said that he would not use the debt ceiling for political leverage.
Republicans are again willing to risk tanking the the entire economy in order to force Democrats to accept deep and unpopular cuts to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Obamacare. These cuts would come on top of the job-killing austerity cuts to other domestic programs that Republicans are also demanding Democrats agree to keep.
As he laid out his hostage-taking plan to donors, even Boehner admitted that this tactic was “unfair.” He’s right.
The American people overwhelmingly rejected these policies last year when they overwhelmingly rejected Mitt Romney and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). Voters also expanded the Democratic majority in the Senate and even voted for a Democratic House of Representatives, which Republicans are only able to maintain control of thanks to the extensive gerrymandering they carried out after the 2010 census.
BOTTOM LINE: We can’t continue govern by crisis. Republicans should drop their irresponsible threats to shut down the government and Congress simply needs to raise the debt limit in order to pay the bills it already racked up.