Column: Republicans are the clowns in the debt ceiling circus. The act isn’t funny anymore.
September 30, 2021 2:42 am
Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate floor following a recess in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on January 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images
In case you missed it, on Monday, Republicans in the narrowly divided U.S. Senate voted to block the approval of new borrowing intended to pay for old debt that they’re complicit in racking up.
While entirely unsurprising, the GOP’s united front on the debt ceiling is the most transparent kind of political cynicism.
As Bloomberg reports, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his fellow Republicans are pressing Senate Democrats to use the fast-track process known as reconciliation to raise the debt ceiling without GOP votes. That’s the same process the Democrats want to use to bypass the GOP to pass the Democratic Biden administration’s sprawling domestic agenda.
With the Senate deadlocked at 50-50, and a midterm election looming, Republicans want to make Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his fellow Democrats look as bad as possible as they look to recapture control of the 100-member chamber.
“There is no chance, no chance the Republican conference will go out of our way to help Democrats conserve their time and energy, so they can resume ramming through partisan socialism as fast as possible,” McConnell said Tuesday as another attempt to raise the debt ceiling flopped, CBS News reported.
But, and this is an important but, the inescapable reality here is that McConnell and the GOP are responsible for the spending that’s led to the current standoff, and they’re working as hard as they can to evade responsibility for it. That’s some galactic dissonance for a party that’s tried to portray itself as a champion of fiscal responsibility.
And even that doesn’t hold up under even casual scrutiny.
There are real world consequences here that also bear repeating: The bill that the GOP currently opposes also would authorize billions of dollars in aid for parts of the country hit by extreme weather, and keep the federal government operating past Thursday, States Newsroom Washington reporter Laura Olson wrote earlier this week. A shutdown would stop the flow of government assistance when so many Americans desperately need it.
After Monday’s failed vote, Schumer correctly blamed Republicans, accusing them of “playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States,” Olson reported.
“The Republican Party has solidified itself as the party of default, and it will be the American people who pay the price,” Schumer added.
There’s a certain beauty to that plan. But it would require Democrats to do something they are supernaturally bad at doing: Actually using the power that comes with controlling the White House and both chambers of the legislative branch, and playing the kind of hardball it takes to get stuff done.
You can say this much for the Republicans. They might not run the White House or the U.S House, but they routinely roll right over Democrats as if they do.
The Democrats should get rid of both the debt ceiling and the filibuster — thus ending the paralysis in an already broken U.S. Senate — and do the work the voters elected them to do. You can bet Republicans would do the same if they were in charge.
It’s time to take the wheels off the GOP’s clown car before it runs the nation permanently into the ditch.
This column first ran in the Advance‘s sister outlet, the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Read the column here.
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An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining the Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count.