October 8, 2021

Debt Ceiling

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The U.S. Senate approved legislation on Thursday to temporarily raise the federal government's $28.4 trillion debt limit and avoid the risk of a historic default this month, but put off until early December a decision on a longer-lasting remedy… The plan emerged on Wednesday after top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said Republicans were open to a temporary hike after twice blocking Democrats' attempts to raise the cap.” Reuters

Here’s our recent coverage of the debt ceiling. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left criticizes Republicans for obstructing the debt ceiling increase and opposes caving to McConnell’s unprecedented tactics.

“The steepest rises in debt-to-GDP ratio came during the presidencies of two Republicans (Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump) and one Democrat (Barack Obama). However, some of these increases happened partly because of crises. When Obama came into office during the Great Recession, a loss of tax revenues due to the economic downturn and a $831 billion stimulus package led to large budget deficits…

“And in 2020, during Trump’s presidency, stimulus efforts to combat the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a further rise. Yet much of this was of their own making, such as the tax cuts passed during the presidencies of Reagan and Trump…

“Prior to this current fight, if one party had full control but lacked 60 seats in the Senate, the minority party wouldn’t block the majority from advancing debt ceiling legislation… While it’s not unheard of to increase the limit via reconciliation, having the minority force the majority to raise it this way is new.”
Geoffrey Skelley, FiveThirtyEight

“Republicans need not vote to raise the debt ceiling, so long as they do not object to allowing Democrats to do so by a simple majority vote. Mr. McConnell’s insistence on objecting was an attempt to force Democrats to use complex parliamentary maneuvers, to waste precious Senate floor time and to complicate the majority’s legislative efforts. No historical precedent or compelling principle justified the minority leader’s obstruction. He simply knew the debt limit must be raised and that Republicans could make it maximally painful for Democrats to do so.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“[In 2011] The Republican-led House of Representatives wanted spending cuts and took the federal borrowing limit hostage—creating the ensuing threat of Treasury defaulting on its debts, which would have catastrophic consequences for the U.S. and world economy—in order to secure them. These were not fun times. But at least it was a negotiation between counterparties with discrete policy asks. The two sides ultimately reached a deal to impose annual spending caps, which were subsequently adjusted every time they were about to come into effect…

“This time, it’s Senate Republicans who are doing the hostage-taking, and they ‘have no list of demands,’ as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a letter to President Joe Biden earlier this week. Republicans’ only stipulations have been procedural: They insist that the debt ceiling must be raised, but that they will not offer a single vote to do so…

“They want Democrats to raise the debt ceiling, on their own, so that they can disingenuously argue that ‘Democrats added X trillion dollars to the debt’ in campaign ads next year. (Increasing the debt ceiling does not increase the debt. It just allows Treasury to finance existing obligations that Congress has already approved.)”
Jim Newell, Slate

“[The debt ceiling] is both a mindlessly stupid structure that does not exist in any other country and also something that could easily be fixed. Democrats could amend the filibuster and delete the ceiling forever in five minutes, because they control both houses of Congress and the White House. Or President Biden could declare it unconstitutional, as it almost certainly is. Or he could mint the platinum coin… [Otherwise] We're going to have the exact same crisis again in two months.”
Ryan Cooper, The Week

From the Right

The right argues that Democrats should increase the debt ceiling through reconciliation and defends McConnell’s tactics.

The right argues that Democrats should increase the debt ceiling through reconciliation and defends McConnell’s tactics.

“Democrats have the power to raise the debt limit whenever they want. The Senate parliamentarian has ruled that they can do so and would be able to in a separate measure that would not require tinkering with the separate $3.5 trillion social-welfare bill they are trying to pass. Even though Democrats have wanted to use reconciliation to push through a sweeping domestic agenda, to try to raise the minimum wage, and even to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, they have thus far been unwilling to use reconciliation to avoid a catastrophic debt-limit scenario…

“This standoff is happening during a time in his presidency at which Biden has already lost the public’s confidence due to his handling of Afghanistan, the border crisis, COVID-19, and a host of other issues. Just 44 percent of Americans now say Biden is honest, compared with 50 percent who say he isn’t, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University…

“The same poll found that ‘Americans say 55 – 42 percent that the Biden administration is not competent in running the government.’ If Americans don’t think Biden’s honest and competent now, what will they say if financial markets are in full-blown panic mode due to a default on U.S.Treasuries that his party had the power to avoid?.”
Philip Klein, National Review

“Democrats say that both parties should cooperate in raising it, as they did when President Trump was in office. It’s a convenient version of the history that leaves out the fact that they got Republicans to concede some of their spending priorities in return. When Congress raised the limit in 2019, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer started their joint statement thus: ‘Today, a bipartisan agreement has been reached…’ They were ‘pleased to have secured robust funding for critical domestic priorities in this agreement.’…

“In this Congress, Democrats want to pass a gigantic increase in spending and taxes on a party-line vote, using the ‘budget reconciliation’ process that avoids filibusters. No negotiations with Republicans are taking place. There is nothing improper in a party’s [use of] the budget rules to get its way. But since Democrats have decided to pursue this option, it is entirely reasonable for Republicans to respond that they should use those rules to raise the debt limit, too.”
The Editors, National Review

“This has to be the single dumbest congressional standoff I’ve covered in 15 years. The substantive stakes are unimaginably high while the procedural stakes are unimaginably low. Schumer and his caucus could have taken care of this weeks ago by raising the debt ceiling through reconciliation, which, yes, would have required them to take ownership of an ugly number in the $30 trillion range…

“But guess what: Americans already know the national debt is an ugly number. And they also know that Trump and the GOP added considerably to it. And they also also know that Biden and the Democrats are about to make that ugly number much, much uglier with their infrastructure package…

“Which is the real political liability for Democrats next year. Not the debt-ceiling hike, which ultimately no one will remember or care about, but the fact that they’re willing to burn through trillions more in spending after America just got done with a mind-boggling degree of federal largesse in the form of COVID relief. Whatever happens with the debt ceiling won’t spare them from that reckoning.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

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