Someone asked me the other day why President Obama doesn’t just ask for a clean debt-ceiling bill, instead of engaging in these mind-numbing negotiations. The truth is, he has asked for a clean bill, repeatedly. It didn’t get much attention at the time — the White House pushed for this in March and April — but the request was certainly made.
The problem is, it fell flat very quickly. In late May, House Republicans brought a clean debt-ceiling bill to House floor for the express purpose of watching it fail. The point was to let a right-wing caucus thump its chest, telling the White House that the hostage strategy — give GOP lawmakers sweeping cuts or they’ll cause crash the economy on purpose — wouldn’t go away.
Regardless, from time to time, it’s worth noting that as crises go, there’s never been an easier dispute to solve. ThinkProgress mentioned today:
Here’s a brilliant plan to end debt ceiling crisis and save the world economy: Raise the debt ceiling.
Atrios raised a similar point yesterday:
Debt-ceiling legislation can be passed in 2 seconds by voice vote
Let’s set the record straight anyway, in case anyone’s forgotten. Congress could, today, pass a clean bill that raises the debt ceiling. It would immediately end the crisis, reassure investors and markets around the world, and clear the way for Democrats and Republicans to go right back to fighting again. The whole process would take a few 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. The issue has come up 89 times, and in 89 instances, Congress passed a clean bill. 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.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 beyond the pale. This is madness.
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.