Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The House GOP's 2 debt limit strategies: dumb and dumber

The Washington Post reports this morning that the House GOP has settled on two strategies as Congress prepares to raise the debt ceiling later this month. The first strategy is to trade a one-year extension of the debt limit for approval of the remainder of the Keystone XL pipeline. The second is to trade the one-year extension for repeal of the Affordable Care Act's "risk corridors," which protect insurance companies by limiting the amount of money an insurance plan can lose on the health-care exchange.

Both issues, Keystone and risk corridors, are legitimate - and not just for conservatives. Many on the left and the right - not to mention the State Department - think there's not much that's objectionable about Keystone, which would carry oil from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska. (The Observer's editorial board agrees.) The "risk corridors" are, for now, a Republican-driven issue, but that could change as the public learns more about the insurance companies' safety net.

Neither issue, however, has anything to do with the debt ceiling, which is about extending the nation's borrowing authority so we can pay for what Congress has already spent.

It's not hard to predict how this plays out politically. Democrats and the White House will resist tying the debt ceiling to unrelated issues, especially the risk corridors. They'll remind Americans how Republicans drove the government shutdown over Obamacare last year before giving in to public opinion. The old narrative - Republicans as obstructionists - will become the narrative once again.

Why would Republicans risk this? They think they have political winners with Keystone and risk corridors, and they think the public understands that everything in Washington comes with give and take (see the recent $1.1 trillion budget agreement.)

The GOP may be right about the political possibilities of Keystone and risk corridors. But Americans won't want a debt limit fight. They're worn out on political spectacles. Pursuing a game of debt chicken will only get the GOP run over again.

Peter St. Onge


faithplusnothing said...

Dumb and dumber. This should be the title for the Observer opinion page writers.

Wiley Coyote said...

Obama is writing checks his bank account can't pay.

If Republicans try to cut spending, "oh they're hurting the most vulnerable".

This country is being flushed down the toilet by liberal hypocrites and people keep voting them back into office.

But, oh no, we're not increasing the "nanny state" as Obama likes to say and "I had nothing to do with the last government shutdown".

Camudigit said...

Both proposals are sensible and fair. I remember when Obama called Bush "unpatriotic" and irresponsible for extending the debt ceiling and increasing our debt. Obama does it, and it's a necessity to help our country. I'm so sick of Liberals and Progressives. They love spending other peoples' money until there is none left. Our country is lost and on it's way to our demise.

Archiguy said...

So, the Republicans think blackmail and extortion are still viable political strategies. Good grief. They don't seem to understand that the country must honor the debt obligations already incurred - by them. They're not intelligent enough to manage a household, much less occupy high office.

And Heaven forbid the GOP ever advocate the closing of tax loopholes exploited by the rich and powerful as a way to reduce the deficit. They call such reform "tax increases". That's the upside-down world they live in. Who in the world would vote for these idiots? Other idiots, I suppose.

Garth Vader said...

“Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem. The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can’t pay its own bills.

It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government’s reckless fiscal policies. Over the past five years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is ‘‘trillion’’ with a ‘‘T.’’ That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers.

Numbers that large are sometimes hard to understand. Some people may wonder why they matter. Here is why: This year, the federal government will spend $220 billion on interest. That is more money to pay interest on our national debt than we’ll spend on Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

That is more money to pay interest on our debt this year than we will spend on education, homeland security, transportation and veterans benefits combined. It is more money in one year than we are likely to spend to rebuild the devastated gulf coast in a way that honors the best of America. And the cost of our debt is one of the fastest growing expenses in the federal budget.

This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and states of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health-care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on.

Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities. Instead, interest payments are a significant tax on all Americans — a debt tax that Washington doesn’t want to talk about. If Washington were serious about honest tax relief in this country, we would see an effort to reduce our national debt by returning to responsible fiscal policies.

But we are not doing that. Despite repeated efforts by Senators Conrad and Feingold, the Senate continues to reject a return to the commonsense pay-go rules that used to apply. Previously, pay-go rules applied both to increases in mandatory spending and to tax cuts. The Senate had to abide by the commonsense budgeting principle of balancing expenses and revenues.

Unfortunately, the principle was abandoned, and now the demands of budget discipline apply only to spending. As a result, tax breaks have not been paid for by reductions in Federal spending, and thus the only way to pay for them has been to increase our deficit to historically high levels and borrow more and more money. Now we have to pay for those tax breaks plus the cost of borrowing for them. Instead of reducing the deficit, as some people claimed, the fiscal policies of this administration and its allies in Congress will add more than $600 million in debt for each of the next five years. That is why I will once again co-sponsor the pay-go amendment and continue to hope that my colleagues will return to a smart rule that has worked in the past and can work again.

Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit."

Sen. Barack Obama, floor speech in the Senate, March 16, 2006

Garth Vader said...


You voted for the guy who gave the above-quoted speech. Now you're calling the folks who want to embrace that speech "dumb and dumber".

So what does that make YOU?