A few Republican Senators — including Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) — have said that they will vote against raising the nation’s debt ceiling unless such a move is paired with spending cuts. “I won’t [vote for it]. Not unless this debt ceiling is combined with some path to balancing our budget. Returning to 2008 spending levels,” Coburn said.
Last night on CNBC, Senator-elect Mike Lee (R-UT) went a step further, explicitly saying that he will vote against increasing the debt limit, whatever the consequences:
KUDLOW: Using the debt limit or the debt ceiling as a way of forcing down spending and deficits — how far would you go? Would you go toward government shutdown if you had to?
LEE: Well, look, I’m going to vote against raising the national debt ceiling. We simply can’t continue to mortgage the future or our unborn children and grandchildren. [...]
KUDLOW: You know Senator, I always wondered, the government shutdown thing, I know people have a fetish about it. When I worked for Reagan many years ago, we did have a government shutdown, but you know, essential activities continue. It’s non-essential activities that get shut down. And if that’s what it takes to cut spending, isn’t that what it’s going to take?
LEE: Yes, and that’s why I say it’s not something that we avoid at all costs. It’s something we try to avoid, because it’s an inconvenience, it’s a nuisance.
Comparing the government shutdowns under Reagan — which were short and due to budget differences — to the country defaulting on its debt entirely shows that neither Lee nor Kudlow understands the gravity of the situation. Raising the debt ceiling affirms that the country will pay off the debts its incurred, and as the Center for American Progress’ David Min pointed out, failure to do so could be disastrous:
The financial markets are on edge today, with U.S. Treasury bonds being the safe haven for most investment capital. Refusing to raise the debt ceiling would recklessly disrupt the sale and purchase of new Treasury bonds, and could potentially cause a run on outstanding Treasurys as well, as investors sought other investments. This could have catastrophic consequences for our economy as well as the economic stability of the rest of the world.
Such a move will also increase long-term deficits and debt, while cutting off Social Security and Medicare benefits for millions of seniors. If Lee thinks that’s just a nuisance, he needs to find some perspective.
Finally, Lee spent the entire interview trying to bolster his credibility when it comes to deficit reduction, but when asked about the nearly $4 trillion cost of extending all of the Bush tax cuts, Lee replied, “We have to stop looking at the Bush tax cuts as something we have to afford.”