BOEHNER WANTS CONGRESS TO TACKLE DEBT LIMIT ‘AS ADULTS’…. During the campaign season leading up to the midterms, Republicans reveled in using the federal debt ceiling for partisan demagoguery.
But now the elections are behind us, and GOP leaders realize their new majority is going to have to swallow hard and approve the same kind of debt limit extension they bashed Democrats for passing.
Many of the new Republican lawmakers harshly criticized their Democratic opponents during the campaign for voting to raise the limit in the past, citing it as an example of the Democrats’ recklessness with federal tax dollars.
But on Thursday, Minority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio) said he’s been talking to the newly elected GOP lawmakers about the need to raise the federal debt ceiling when it comes up early next year.
“I’ve made it pretty clear to them that as we get into next year, it’s pretty clear that Congress is going to have to deal with this,” Mr. Boehner, who is slated to become House speaker in January, told reporters.
“We’re going to have to deal with it as adults,” he said, in what apparently are his most explicit comments to date. “Whether we like it or not, the federal government has obligations and we have obligations on our part.”
Oh, now Boehner wants Republicans to be mature? What convenient timing.
To be sure, Congress doesn’t have much of a choice here. If lawmakers balk and refuse to raise the debt limit, the United States goes into default, signaling to the world that the country isn’t in a position to repay its debts. U.S. treasuries, considered the safest investment on the planet, would no longer have the backing of the full faith and credit of the United States. The result is a government shutdown — and a whole lot more.
But the new House GOP majority has been told not to care. For months, if not years, Republicans have stoked these fires, convincing the party’s candidates and its base that routine extensions of the debt ceiling are downright evil.
Maybe they should have thought this through a little better, appreciating the fact that mindless demagoguery often comes with consequences.
As for what to expect next, there are multiple angles to keep an eye on. First, Boehner & Co. will try to convince rabid, right-wing freshman to be responsible on this, which will be a tough sell. Second, watch for some leading Republicans to try to strike some bizarre deals — Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), a member of the leadership, has suggested Republicans will extend the debt limit if the White House agrees to a partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act. That’s both insane and unrealistic, but the push will happen anyway.
And third, pay careful attention to how House Dems handle this. Democrats won’t be in any hurry to help Boehner out, since it was Republicans who used this as a campaign cudgel throughout 2010. Indeed, Boehner may assume that getting to 218 shouldn’t be too difficult — if the 190 (or so) House Democrats are prepared to do the responsible thing, the GOP leadership will only need a small fraction of the Republican caucus to get this done.
But there’s no way on earth Pelosi and the Dems go along with such a scheme. Even if an extension is endorsed by Republican leaders, Democrats aren’t about to open themselves up to another round of attacks on this issue. It seems quite likely, then, that Pelosi will have a direct message for her GOP counterpart: you made this bed, so you’ll have to lie in it – to avoid a global catastrophe, find the votes on your side of the aisle.