The simple solution that isn’t on the table

The New York Times has a perfectly good summary this morning of all the various possible solutions to the debt-ceiling standoff. The NYT‘s Michael Shear identified eight separate plans.

By now, everyone is surely a bit confused.

Anyone watching the news this week understands that President Obama and lawmakers are racing the clock to raise the nation’s debt ceiling by Aug. 2 while passing legislation to address the country’s soaring deficit.

But after weeks of high-level, closed-door negotiations in the nation’s capital, there are more than a half-dozen proposals floating around that might achieve that.

Democrats like some; Republicans like others. And some plans appear to be disliked equally by members of both parties. It’s hard to keep them straight. And so The Caucus has pulled together an explainer of the key proposals that Mr. Obama and his Republican adversaries are arguing about.

The piece goes on to list the eight proposals, regardless of their viability, that have at least been bandied about. Everything from the “Grand Bargain” to the “Hybrid McConnell” is mentioned.

But there’s one idea that didn’t make the list.

Congress could, this morning, pass a clean bill that raises the debt ceiling, ends the crisis, reassures investors and markets around the world, and clears the way for Democrats and Republicans to go right back to fighting again. The whole process would take five minutes. It’s no different than having a car headed for a cliff, only to have the driver realize the brake works. All he has to do is step on it.

Since 1939, Congress has raised the debt limit 89 times. That’s not a typo. In fact, in two-thirds of these instances, there was a Republican president, and no one ever used the vote as leverage for a reward.

During the Bush presidency, Republicans raised the debt ceiling, without strings or preconditions, seven times. The current GOP leadership in Washington has voted to raise the debt limit 19 times. In all 19 cases, it was a clean bill. Bush’s former budget director said this “ought to be treated as the housekeeping matter it is.”

But we’ve now reached the point at which routine housekeeping, which didn’t even give conservative Republicans a second thought as recently as 2008, is considered so beyond the pale, that when it’s time to review policymakers’ options to resolve a crisis of their own making, the easy, straightforward, and customary solution isn’t even mentioned.

One effortless vote makes the entire problem disappear. I can’t think of any potential crisis that’s so serious and yet so easy to resolve. But this isn’t even a possibility because the Republican Party has lost its mind.