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Sanity, please, on debt-ceiling standoff

May 7, 2023

One of Congress’ key responsibilities is paying the nation’s bills, thus ensuring the “full faith and credit” of the United States.

It’s enshrined in the Constitution. Section Four of the 14th Amendment states the “validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

Opponents of U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s attempt to pry massive budget concessions from President Biden in exchange for not tanking the American economy make a good point. Where was this concern about the debt ceiling when President Trump was in office? Republican lawmakers lifted the debt ceiling by $7 trillion during Trump’s single four-year term without demanding spending cuts in future years. But here we are, a nation on the brink of not being able to cover Social Security checks, military salaries or principal and interest payments on some U.S. Treasury securities That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Defaulting on the nation’s debts could roil financial markets worldwide, plunge the country into a recession with skyrocketing interest rates and massive job losses. It would also give China and Russia an opportunity to point out that U.S.-style democracy is too chaotic to be trusted, eroding America’s standing in the global community. So economic stability and national security hang in the balance over ... what exactly? The opportunity to make a political point? Let’s be clear about what the debt ceiling is. It has to be raised to pay for things Congress has already authorized. It has nothing to do with new spending. That’s why Democrats are pushing for a clean debt-ceiling bill, not the one Rep. Lauren Boebert recently supported that raises the debt limit in exchange for slashing spending and gutting some Biden policy priorities. “The House took responsible action to make sure that we didn’t default on our debt,” she tweeted. “It is completely irresponsible for Joe Biden to refuse to negotiate on this matter, especially when he campaigned as a bipartisan dealmaker ...” Responsible action? Holding the American economy hostage over circumstances that existed before a Biden victory doesn’t look responsible. It looks petty and vindictive. Democrats passed on the opportunity to raise the debt ceiling during the last Congress through a filibuster-proof maneuver known as budget reconciliation. They didn’t have the political appetite to take on Republican accusations of saddling the country with debt — even though the GOP has no aversion to deficit spending when their guy is in the White House. Boebert never misses an opportunity for gamesmanship and political posturing. They have their place in politics, but not when the stake are this high. Sticking to her guns on this issue will harm Americans. It will hurt everyone. It’s time for responsible Republicans to call out the extremists in the party who are pushing this insanity. End the games, raise the debt limit and live to fight another day.

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