House Republicans are privately contemplating a quiet surrender in the fight over Bush tax rates for top earners, and a quick pivot to a new fight over raising the debt limit, in which they’d demand steep cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security.
The White House’s official position on this plan is: cram it. Officials say they will not negotiate, or pay a ransom. Congress has to raise the debt limit, period.
“I will not play that game,” Obama told the Business Roundtable on Wednesday. “We are not going to play that game next year. We’ve got to break that habit before it starts.”
The ransom that the GOP congressional leadership is demanding is that any new borrowing authority must be accompanied by larger cuts to federal spending – which Dems will have to propose, because Republicans can never name a single program they want to cut except for PBS. This would mean austerity budgeting at a time when it’s a really bad idea for the U.S. economy — risking a repeat of Europe’s self-inflicted crisis.
Speaker John Boehner seems ready to once again threaten us all with total economic collapse. However, according to the Constitution, the Congress does not have the option of refusing to pay for government expenses that have already been authorized by Congress. The 14th Amendment states: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law… shall not be questioned.”
The debt ceiling is unconstitutional. The GOP cannot use it to shut down the government.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall: “We’re headed for the Mother of All Government Shutdowns.”