A dangerous game of chicken

A DANGEROUS GAME OF CHICKEN…. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated on Friday his caucus is prepared to kill a debt-limit extension unless “something significant” is done about the debt McConnell helped create. As Tanya Somanader noted, the GOP Senate leader was even more explicit on “Fox News Sunday.”

“There are 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. My prediction is not a single one of the 47 Republicans will vote to raise the debt ceiling unless it includes with it some credible effort to do something about our debt.

“Now, the House is another matter. I’m just predicting that the Senate Republican votes. I don’t believe Senate Republicans are going to vote to raise the debt ceiling. The Democrats can raise it themselves if they choose to and try to do nothing whatsoever about the problem.

“I think to get any of the 47 Republicans, you’ve got to do something credible that the markets believe is credible, that the American people believe is credible, the foreign countries believe is credible in addition to simply just raising the debt ceiling.”

In case anyone’s forgotten, McConnell’s credibility on fiscal issues is effectively non-existent. He voted for the Bush tax cuts, and added the costs to the national debt. McConnell voted to finance the war in Afghanistan by adding the costs to the national debt. He then voted to put the costs of the war in Iraq onto the national debt. McConnell supported a massive expansion of the government’s role in health care, Medicare Part D, and voted to pile all of its costs right onto the national debt, and then backed the financial industry bailout, and added the bill to the national debt. All the while, McConnell had no qualms about voting to raise the debt limit.

But now McConnell is letting us know that he and every other Senate Republican are prepared to risk default unless Democrats agree to a plan to help clean up the mess McConnell helped create.

And if Dems fail to make McConnell happy, the consequences may prove catastrophic.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently said failing to raise the debt limit “would be a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said failure to raise the debt limit would lead to “financial collapse and calamity throughout the world.” Fox News’ Charles Krauthammer said the consequences would be “catastrophic.” Fox News’ Dana Perino said Republicans are inviting “economic disaster.” George Will said policymakers would have to be “suicidal.”

McConnell knows all of this. He doesn’t care. There are certain things responsible, mature, powerful policymakers just don’t do, but for today’s Republicans, these norms are antiquated niceties that have no value in partisan warfare.

Keep in mind what McConnell is asking for here. Over the next four weeks, the Senate Minority Leader wants Democratic officials to somehow reach an agreement to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year and, at the exact same time, figure out a way pay some sort of ransom to Republicans in the form of a massive debt-reduction plan.

And if Dems don’t go along with the GOP’s hostage strategy, McConnell & Co. will, at a minimum, shut down the government, and at worst, cause a global economic catastrophe — on purpose.

Thanks again, midterm election voters, for handing us this mess.