Sunday, January 20, 2013
Did GOP Blink On Debt Ceiling ?
Congressional Republicans are now saying they will allow a vote next week on extending the debt ceiling, but that extension will only be for three months. Then we will be right back to the same stand-off that we're facing now, with the Republicans again threatening to shut the government down.
There will be an added part to the 3 month debt ceiling extension bill in the House -- a provision that says members of Congress will not get their paychecks until a budget has been passed. This is a silly provision for two reasons. First, most members of Congress are rich (and don't really need those paychecks), and second, the provision is unconstitutional (since congressional pay cannot be changed before an election -- meaning any change approved cannot be put in action until after the 2014 election).
The important part of the Republican plan is the three month extension. All this does is kick the debt ceiling problem a little further down the road. This is nothing more than an attempt by the GOP to give themselves a little political cover for opposing the debt ceiling raise. They claim that they have passed a budget for the past few years, but the Senate hasn't -- and they are just trying to pass the blame for their own obstructionism onto the Senate.
The problem with that is that the two budget plans they passed (the so-called Ryan plans) were not serious budgets, and the House GOP knew those ridiculous plans would never pass the Senate -- because they contained such unacceptable items as abolishing Medicare, slashing Food Stamps and school lunches for poor children, and stopping unemployment insurance for out-of-work Americans (among other ludicrous proposals). And if they pass a similar budget (where they try to cut benefits for Social Security and Medicare and slash programs helping poor and unemployed Americans), the Senate will have no choice but to refuse to pass it again.
If the Republicans were serious, they would actually try to find a compromise that both sides can agree on. But that is not what they want. They just want to shift the blame for their own intransigence onto the Senate, by delaying the debt ceiling fight for 3 months and coupling it to the budget. They are just trying to desperately find some political cover for their hard-hearted proposals.
The real question now is whether the president and the Democrats are willing to let the GOP kick that debt ceiling can down the road for three months, and then again threaten to shut down the government if they don't get what they want. The president sounds like he doesn't like the idea. He's said:
"America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they've already racked up."
"They're going to have to send me something that's sensible. And we shouldn't be doing this ... on a one to three-month timeframe. Why would we do that? This is the United States of America. ... What, we can't manage our affairs in such a way that we pay our bills and we provide some certainty in terms of how we pay our bills?"
"I'm not going to have a monthly or every-three-months conversation about whether or not we pay our bills. Because that in and of itself does severe damage. Even the threat of default hurts our economy. It's hurting our economy as we speak. We shouldn't be having that debate."
What will House and Senate Democrats do? I hope they refuse to go along with this silly idea. If the government has to be shut down to make the GOP realize this kind of confrontational threatening won't work, then let's go ahead and get it over with. Kicking the problem down the road for 3 months is not a solution -- and a solution is what is needed. This silly proposal has not lessened the Democratic position or helped the Republican position -- so, stand fast Democrats, and demand a debt ceiling extension of at least a year. Then get on with creating a reasonable budget, passing common sense gun laws, and fixing our immigration problems.