Will Boehner Prevent Extremists from Causing US Debt Default?

by Linda Beale

Will Boehner Prevent Extremists from Causing US Debt Default?

As the shutdown continues, Republican Speaker Boehner still refuses to bring a clean budget resolution to a vote.  It is most likely that a clean resolution would pass, ending the charade of the extremist Tea Party faction in the House willing to cause individual suffering for hundreds of thousands of workers and communities, while also damaging the US government with the huge incremental costs of transitioning into and out of shutdown.   Instead, word is that Republicans are planning a series of small bills so they can claim they are funding the “good” stuff in the government.  Again,  a perfect example of hostage-taking–letting those the hostage-takers like get out, but holding whatever the hostage-taker doesn’t like hostage.  The Dems would be wise to say no to all of these special interest bills.

The media tend to present this as a “he said, she said” type situation where both sides are at fault.  It isn’t.  This is a case of a desperate minority attempting to enforce their will on the majority of this country through whatever means they can find, including destroying the economy and causing individual suffering.  The Tea Party efforts are even causing problems for Republican congressional staffers, many of whom receive fairly low salaries (as little as $28,000 a year), who would be denied any federal subsidy for insurance under one of the Tea Party proposals, even though both parties had agreed that they should be eligible.  See Joan McCarter, GOP staff: Our bosses ‘threw staff under the bus’, Daily Kos (Sept. 30, 2013).

The Dems in control of the Senate negotiated with the House over the budget measure for months.  And the Dems compromised an extraordinary amount by agreeing to the “across-the-board” sequester, which cuts government programs in arbitrary and harmful ways.  And the Dems agreed with the House on letting most of the Bush tax cuts be made permanent, including the dividend treatment as capital gains that benefits mostly the wealthiest of the wealthy.  The Dems have compromised already on fiscal and tax policy, giving the right much of what it wanted.   It was the House, controlled by a minority of Tea Party Republicans, that refused to appoint conferees to the necessary conference committee to work out the details, just as it is the House that continues to attempt to exploit shutting down government/causing suffering/and potentially cause a US default to try to get its way.  The Tea Party Republicans have shown a reckless willingness to put the country at risk of huge harm to get their way.

Senator Reid has made a reasonable offer that Boehner should let a clean continuing resolution get to vote so that the government can reopen, and then the Senate will appoint conferees for a budget conference committee where the House and Senate can hash out a real budget bill.  See Lewison, Reid makes Boehner an offer: Reopen government and then let’s talk, Daily Kos (Oct 2, 2013).  And today, President Obama challenged Boehner to allow a vote and get the government operating again. Stop this Farce, Obama Tells Contress on this Third Day of Shutdown, Reuters.com (Oct. 3, 2013).

“As reckless as a government shutdown is, as many people as are being hurt by a government shutdown, an economic shutdown that results from default would be dramatically worse.”  Id.

Even the threat of default is problematic.

The Treasury report shows that the Congressional debt-limit standoff in 2011 hurt consumer confidence, small-business confidence, household wealth and the stock market, with ramifications for lending and the economic recovery.  Id.

But maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Apparnetly, Boehner realizes that Republicans will pay heavily if he lets this fight go to the point of causing a federal default so he “has told colleagues that he is determined to prevent a federal default and is willing to pass a measure through a combination of Republican and Democratic votes, according to multiple House Republicans.”  See Ashley Parker & Anne Lowrey, Republicans Say Boehner Vows to Avert Federal Default, New York Times (Oct. 3, 2013).  Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA) indicated he expected there would be another vote with majority Democratic support. ” ‘Hurricane Sandy, the fiscal cliff, all of the big votes require reasonable Republicans and Democrats to come together in order to pass it and get it to the president’s desk,’ he said. ‘This will be no different.’ ” Id.

One of the commenters on the Times article about Obama’s speech urges that the Dems hold firm.

[The Republicans are] just holding out at this point to get some kind of a fig leaf so they can call their shutdown tactics a success. And that’s exactly why Obama and the Democrats shouldn’t give them an inch. If we don’t want to go through this destructive, pointless process every three months, we need the whole nation to see that shutting down the government is a losing gambit. There should be no fig leaf and no token concessions of any kind. …

Another points out the historical origin of the debt ceiling–demonstrating that extremists on the right have long used whatever means they can find to try to undo programs they don’t like.

[W]e all should remember that the “debt ceiling” itself was established in 1939 by the conservative coalition in Congress after major Republican gains in the 1938 elections in order to push back New Deal public works and other programs and prevent the establishment of new social welfare programs. The debt at the time was 41 billion and the [ceiling] was 44 billion. …

A sustainable economy requires a Congress that will act with some temperance to reach agreements across partisan disputes.  A government cannot be run by minority blocks who demand their way no matter what.  Voters should remember this mess when next they go to the polls to elect a Senator or Representative.

cross posted with ataxingmatter

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