Will Republicans blow up the economy?

Democrats and Republicans are locked in a duel, or a game of chicken, over raising the debt ceiling. On Tuesday, October 5, 2021, CNN political reporter Chris Cillizza wrote (here):

   “Two weeks out from a dangerous debt default with broad consequences for the American economy, Mitch McConnell isn’t budging.

   “‘Republicans’ position is simple,’ wrote the Senate minority leader in a public letter to President Joe Biden on Monday. ‘We have no list of demands. For two and a half months, we have simply warned that since your party wishes to govern alone, it must handle the debt limit alone as well.’
   “Biden stormed against that view Monday afternoon, insisting that Republican recalcitrance at helping to pay for debts rung up under former President Donald Trump was the height of irresponsibility. ‘Republicans say they will not do their part to avoid this needless calamity,’ Biden said. ‘So be it. But they need to stop playing Russian roulette with the US economy.'”
     Will they? That remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t bet it on, for reasons explained below.
     Who’s right? Not McConnell. His position is utterly unprincipled, cynical, and hypocritical. But when has McConnell ever been anything but a ruthless manipulator? And let’s be clear: There’s no equivalent politician or behavior on the Democratic side; McConnell is alone in the Senate in his unyielding opportunism. As Cillizza writes, “Biden — rightly — noted that Democrats had voted with Republicans several times during the Trump years to raise the debt limit.”
     He could’ve said, more broadly, that Democrats play by the rules, and Republicans don’t. McConnell makes up rules as he goes along, and they change at his convenience (e.g., the Supreme Court nominations).
     There isn’t much time left to raise the debt ceiling — the government won’t be able to pay its bills after October 18 — and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned there will be a recession if Congress doesn’t come through. Failure to get it done means soldiers won’t be paid, Social Security retirees’ monthly income will be cut off, and interest rates will rise on mortgages, car loans, and credit cards. Nearly everyone will get hurt in some way.
     But it takes 60 senators’ votes to pass the House debt ceiling bill, and Democrats have only 50 of them. As things stand now, Republicans won’t supply any votes. McConnell’s insistence that Democrats “have the votes” is disingenuous. But so is everything else he says and does.
     By gambling with the economy and millions of Americans’ livelihoods, McConnell is angling for a tactical advantage in next year’s midterm elections. Or, as Cillizza puts it, he’s “playing politics.” No surprise there; that’s what McConnell always does. The GOP Senate leader never does anything principled or because it’s the right thing to do. He’s a pure power player.
     Cillizza says McConnell’s calculation is “simple.” He’s betting that if things go off the rails, voters will blame the Democrats, because they’re the party in power. That’s undoubtedly true of low-information voters who pay little or no attention to political news, and react to events with knee-jerks. But those people tend not to vote, or if they do, they wouldn’t vote for Democrats anyway.
     For everyone else, it’s no harder than understanding “yes” and “no.” What the Democrats should do, and undoubtedly will do, is put the debt ceiling increase to a vote. It will fail. What the news media will report, and the public will see, is that all the Democrats voted “yes” and all the Republicans voted “no.” It will be obvious who burned the house down.
     And that’s where things are going right now. The same day Cillizza wrote his piece, The Hill said (here), “Weeks after McConnell telegraphed his strategy that Republicans will not lift a finger to extend the nation’s borrowing limit, Democrats engaged in a choreographed effort to convince voters that the GOP leader would be responsible for a debt default.” Biden called McConnell’s maneuvering “dangerous,” and said whether the U.S. defaults on October 18 “is up to McConnell.” But Washington D.C. insiders think Biden will blink first.
     Right and wrong has nothing to do with this, but if anyone wants to talk about that, McConnell doesn’t have a valid complaint. It’s true the Democrats aren’t bargaining with his party over the budget or spending, but why should they, when Republicans don’t? It’s been decades since there’s been reciprocity in Washington D.C., and the parties aren’t equally to blame; that’s coming from the Republican side. They don’t horse-trade; they want the Democrats to give in, for nothing in return.
     No one in the GOP, least of all McConnell, believes in bipartisanship anymore. What they’re after is minority rule. Despite voter rejection at the ballot box, they want to call the shots. (The 50 GOP senators were elected with 41 million fewer votes than the 50 Democratic senators.) That’s what this fight, and all of America’s political fights now, are about.
     McConnell’s behavior is part of a larger pattern and scheme. The GOP is unpopular. They seek political power by gaming the election system (and, when that doesn’t work, by trying to overthrow it.) They use the Senate filibuster to block the Democratic agenda, and uncompromisingly seek to impose their own. They stack the courts with judges wildly unrepresentative of the American people. There is no give and take, with them, it’s all or nothing. And, like the Taliban in Afghanistan, democracy isn’t part of their system.
     Is it worth risking the economy to keep authoritarians from dominating our lives? I don’t see that we have a choice. And if bad things flow from their scheming, those things are on them. The Democrats are simply trying to do what a majority of Americans elected them to do. That’s how this country is supposed to work.

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0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Mark Adams #

    McConnell is not alone. He has 49 other Senators who are not voting to lift the ceiling. As far as is known there are 50 Democrats who support increase the ceiling and Vice President Harris puts them over the limit. Schumer actually has to try to bring the bill to the floor and McConnell can allow that, or the Dems can use one of their reconciliation chits. They can get get this done and the 1.5 trillion infrastructure bill and everyone calls it a win. 3.5 trillion darn those Republicans have rediscovered fiscal responsibility or at least no singing “Spanish Ladies” in the Senate by Republican yachtsmen…yachtpeople.
    Ahh the Constitution is working as designed.

  2. Roger Rabbit #

    The filibuster doesn’t come from the Constitution; it’s a Senate rule. While it remains, it takes 60 votes, not 50, to raise the debt ceiling. Reconciliation won’t work. Defaulting is fiscally responsible? Not in this universe. The debt ceiling isn’t about Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan; it’s necessary to cover Trump’s spending. Republicans are using it as a budget bargaining chip; that’s never been done before. As I said in the article, Schumer should take a vote; and if all the Democrats vote “yes,” and it fails because all the Republicans voted “no,” the American people will know who’s responsible. They know the difference between “yes” and “no.”

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