Boehner and GOP Cave on the Debt Ceiling

photo of John Boehner's head on a caveman body
John Boehner, Cave-Man

An hour or so ago, AP News push alerts informed me of the inevitable GOP cave on the debt ceiling increase, bringing a “clean” bill to the floor for a vote, reversing Mitch McConnell’s recent threats.

As expected.

A Republican cave is what happened last time there was a debt limit fight, but sadly, not what happened the first time Republicans threw their hissy fit over the debt limit. Let us hope this matter has finally been put to rest permanently. The facts – and the inexorable logic for the GOP – have never changed since the very first time they floated the idea of holding the debt ceiling hostage to political concessions:

  1. Authorizing the nation’s borrowing limit to be raised allows Congress to pay for measures they’ve already passed. If the GOP want to spend less, they should have voted against the bills they passed which authorized the spending.
  2. If the GOP still want to retroactively declare themselves against spending they themselves voted to authorize (many of them, anyway), what they’ll be doing in reality is defaulting on the full faith and credit of the United States. That’s never been done intentionally with no plan to reverse it, so its exact effects aren’t known. But, by all credible estimations, the consequences of a default would be disastrous.
  3. Who would be hit worst (other than the poor and elderly, who might have the checks that are the only thing between them and poverty delayed or not sent at all)? You guessed it: Wall Street. The people with the most money invested in the system. A debt limit would crush the nation’s investor class, and the big banks, meaning anything that even smells like a serious attempt at default would be met with a swift and all-out response from the most powerful industry in the world: finance.

These facts have never changed. Boehner knows them. McConnell knows them. That said, these men are also politicians to the core, the type of players who are not likely to leave money on the table. So naturally, if they think they can get concessions from the administration and/or Democrats in Congress by playing brinksmanship, they will certainly do so. But Boehner and McConnell are betting on a busted flush. They know it, and today proved it. Calling their bluff, which the President appears to have done twice now, will cause them to fold with no adverse consequences at all, except possibly some peevish muttering from Boehner about how “this President can have the spending he wants.”

Let’s be clear about that, though: it’s not “spending the President wants,” it’s meeting the obligations our nation has already incurred, by spending money Congress (including Republicans) already voted to authorize. Period.