A majority of the House Republicans (169 of them) voted in favor of the Ryan-Murray budget deal in December — a deal which was not debt-neutral in the short term — but today only 28 of them voted to raise the debt limit.
I think these people must have been hit in the head too many times or something. You can’t vote through a package that increases the debt and then vote against raising the debt limit to accommodate that increase you already approved.
As a refresher, let’s check back in on part of a popular post I wrote in October, “Shutdown Myth 2: The Debt Ceiling Can Stop Spending”:
The debt ceiling is a limitation set by Congress on the executive branch’s ability to borrow money to pay for expenses Congress has already authorized. Failure to raise the debt limit does not prevent these authorized expenditures happening because the executive branch is constitutionally required to spend the money Congress has ordered to be spent.
Again, no new money is being spent when the ceiling is raised so this doesn’t somehow rein in the spending. It’s merely a cap on the ability to borrow to pay for expenditures Congress already directed the executive branch to make.
To recap: Six times more House Republicans voted to raise the debt itself last year than voted to raise the limit on that debt today.
Thank goodness the Democrats in the minority were allowed to vote through a debt ceiling increase in the absence of people who can add two and two.
Reality: The debt ceiling is a limitation set by Congress (originally in World War I) on the executive branch’s ability to borrow money to pay for expenses Congress has already authorized. Failure to raise the debt limit does not prevent these authorized expenditures happening because the executive branch is constitutionally required to spend the money Congress has ordered to be spent. Instead the executive branch is forced to attempt to borrow more money while halting re-payments on existing debt. This wouldn’t work very well and the world financial markets would go into a panic, since it’s tantamount to the government of the largest economy filing for bankruptcy, i.e. inability to pay creditors (while still trying to buy things!). Again, no new money is being spent when the ceiling is raised so this doesn’t somehow rein in the spending. It’s merely a cap on the ability to borrow to pay for expenditures Congress already directed the executive branch to make. It’s an idiotic device to have in place outside of the wartime blank-check appropriation context for which it was created. But as long as it exists, Congress needs to vote to raise it. It shouldn’t be subject to negotiation, because there’s nothing to negotiate.
Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.
“AFD Ep 35 – A Second Inauguration”
Posted: Mon, 21 Jan 2013
Description: Bill discusses President Obama’s second inauguration with guest Neal Carter. Former co-host Kelley checks in to talk about her upcoming service with the Peace Corps. Bill looks at the Republican defeat on the debt ceiling and what it signals for the next two years, and then explains more about the crisis in Mali. Finally, Bill offers some thoughts on the future broadly.
This month, so far, is turning out very well for the White House. The Republicans are already caving on the debt ceiling increase, despite all the apocalypse talk from the pundits. Not only have House Republicans reportedly made peace with the reality of their diminished power and inability to extract concessions, but their Senate colleagues (including the powerful Minority Whip) are explicitly reversing tough talk about government shutdowns and acknowledging that the debt ceiling is going to go up and they can’t do much about it or set the terms. The White House is about to walk away two months early with a ceiling raise and no ransom-style spending cuts.
And the caving is coming alongside the apparent abandonment of the “Hastert Rule” that I discussed earlier this month. Essentially, under that rule, Speaker Boehner would have to get support from a majority of the (heavily extremist) House Republicans to pass something, but without that rule he can just go get the House Democrats to vote it through with a couple dozen moderate Republicans. That immediately moderates any deals toward the center because the more conservative House Republicans lose their obstruction capacities and bargaining leverage. They can either cut a reasonable deal or watch as an even worse — from their perspective — deal goes through without their input.