Since the government shut down last week, Tea Party Republicans have been slowly turning their attention away from simply demanding the repeal or delay of Obamacare in order to reopen the government and toward a more sinister scheme: Taking the country’s borrowing power hostage unless Democrats meet their demands, which include a host of things not limited to the destruction of Obamacare and significant spending cuts.
On Monday, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) joined the fray of Republicans who have expressed little concern about potentially surpassing the country’s debt limit. Speaking on CNBC, Barton went beyond discussion of a “clean” funding bill and said that he wouldn’t even vote for a “so-called clean debt ceiling.” This means that he will not approve a bill to expand the United States’ borrowing power unless it also includes concessions to Republicans.
Should the United States run out of money to pay its bills, as we’re expect to do on October 17, Barton thinks the economy would be just fine. He argues for a flawed and widely doubted debt “prioritization” scheme — a Republican argument that they would be able to prioritize which bills get paid when failure to pass a debt ceiling bill means we can’t expand our borrowing power — by comparing the situation to his own household budget:
BARTON: Well, we have in my household budget some bills that have to be paid and some bills that only paid partially. I think paying interest on the debt has to be paid. I think paying social security payments have to be paid. I don’t think paying the secretary of energy’s travel expanses have to be paid 100 cents on the dollar. We’ve got more than enough cash flow, more than enough cash flow to pay interest on the public debt when it comes due and the House Republicans have passed a prioritization bill. This talk about default by the U.S. Treasury is nonsense. The president can be smart or the president can be stupid. And I would assume as smart as President Obama is when push comes to shove, he’ll be smart. So we are not going to default on the public debt. But that doesn’t mean that we have to pay every bill the day it comes in.
On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said that the U.S. cannot prioritize debt payments, but Barton brushed that off as mere politics. When asked by the host if he thought Lew was lying, Barton said, “I’m not going to say anybody lying. I’m saying he’s playing politics when he says that.” Experts disagree with Barton, however, and say debt prioritization is “essentially impossible.”
On top of that, the Treasury department has warned that “brinksmanship” on the debt ceiling could be extremely hard on the economy, and that failing to expand the debt ceiling would be catastrophic, creating “a recession more severe than any seen since the Great Depression.”