Before the lusty cheers from Beltway pundits celebrating the end of the Tea Party and all that other right-wing unpleasantness had entirely faded from the air, we learned from the Wall Street Journal‘s Damian Paletta that the great statesman who coauthored the budget agreement the Senate is considering today has some nasty plans for the new year:
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) signaled that Republicans would not raise the debt ceiling next year without some sort of concessions from Democrats, saying lawmakers were still crafting their strategy.
“We, as a caucus, along with our Senate counterparts, are going to meet and discuss what it is we want to get out of the debt limit,” Mr. Ryan said on Fox News Sunday. “We don’t want ‘nothing’ out of the debt limit. We’re going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt limit fight.”
Ryan’s budget deal partner Sen. Patty Murray reacted to this news as one might address someone with a chronic illness in remission:
Democrats are likely to repeat their insistence that they will not negotiate cuts in exchange for a debt ceiling increase, but they haven’t rushed Republicans so far.
“I don’t think that our country wants to see another crisis and to send our country into a tailspin,” Ms. Murray said Sunday on NBC. “And, so, we’ll take that road when we get there.”
It’s understandable at this delicate moment that Murray would want to treat Ryan charitably. But since we’ve just pretty recently seen that calling the Republicans’ bluff on debt limit threats is the first successful Democratic strategy on the subject, the time will come pretty soon when the White House and congressional Democrats are going to have to reassert a united front against any negotiations over a debt limit increase. They’re going to have to be willing to look Paul Ryan in the eye and (using the affectionate nickname developed for him by Esquire‘s Charles Pierce) say: “We’ll see you in Hell, Granny-Starver, before we give you a thing in exchange for a debt limit increase.”
If this message is sent and received right away, Members of Congress can end the session on a positive note and wish each other a happy new year (which will not, unfortunately, be shared with the long-term unemployed). But you don’t say “Ho-Ho-Ho” to a man threatening to blow up the economy if he isn’t allowed to liberate more people from the terrible affliction of government assistance with trifles like food and shelter.