Last Friday, a group of recently-elected Republican lawmakers gathered in Baltimore for a retreat sponsored by FreedomWorks, a tea party astroturf group run by corporate lobbyists. ThinkProgress traveled to the event, and spoke to several of the new members about their views on the vote to raise the debt ceiling, a necessary legislative item to prevent the United States government from defaulting on its debt entirely, which would cause a global economic tailspin.
Rep.-elect Andy Harris (R-MD) told us that he would absolutely vote against raising the debt ceiling. Harris — who made headlines this morning after he staged a tantrum upon learning that he had to wait a few weeks before being fully enrolled in taxpayer-subsidized health care for federal employees — explained that he would have the government default as “an important message to send to the American people.” Similarly, Sen.-elect Mike Lee (R-UT) reiterated that he would have the government default on its debt to show that Republicans won’t “slip into the same mindset” of the past:
HARRIS: If we’re serious about reining in government spending, we’re going to have to deal with not raising the debt ceiling. That allows increased government spending.
TP: You would vote against raising the debt ceiling?
HARRIS: Well, look I don’t when that vote is coming up. I don’t know the specifics of it. But we have to be serious about saying that the debt ceiling, not raising it is an important message to send to the American people. [...]
LEE: Now that Republicans are in control of the House and have more representation in the Senate, we can’t slip into the same mindset. And that’s what we do every time we raise the national debt ceiling. We make it that much easier to mortgage the future of unborn generations.
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Off camera, we also spoke to Rep.-elect Reid Ribble (R-WI), who told us that he too would vote against raising the debt ceiling.
In opposing the debt ceiling vote, the GOP freshmen have sought to cast themselves as courageous fiscal conservatives. However, in reality such a drastic move “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.” As the Center for American Progress’ David Min reported, the GOP-led effort to kill the debt ceiling vote “could have catastrophic consequences for our economy as well as the economic stability of the rest of the world.” Min’s recent article, “The Big Freeze,” explains the consequences of playing politics with the debt ceiling.
Moreover, the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo has noted that a default on government debt — which has never happened before — would actually increase long-term deficits and debt, while cutting off Social Security and Medicare benefits for millions of seniors.