In recent weeks, a number of high-profile Republicans have stated their intention to vote against any increase to the U.S. debt limit. From Sen. Mike Lee (UT) to Rep. Michelle Bachmann (MN), these Republicans are essentially stating that they are willing to risk the country defaulting on its debt and a government shutdown if their demands are not met.
Yesterday, newly-elected Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) appeared on Fox Business to talk about his own intention to vote against raising the debt ceiling. The host asked Muvlaney if he was willing to “risk the possibility of a default on our debt.” Mulvaney responded that he has “no difficulty in” voting against raising the debt limit and that it’s worth it to “force a discussion” about spending. The host then followed up by asking, “What do you think would happen if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised?” Mulvaney responded, “Well, I don’t know. I’ve asked that question a lot. I’ve heard Goolsbee on Sunday say it’d be catastrophic, I’ve heard others say that. I did some research last night from [the Congressional Research Service], they don’t know what that means. I think they’re guessing”:
FOX BUSINESS HOST: You’re saying you just want to bring up the issue of spending, which a lot of people agree is the key issue of our time, or are you saying you’d vote to not raise the amount of money our government can borrow and risk the possibility of a default on our debt?
MULVANEY: It depends, if we don’t make structural changes, if we don’t actually send the message to the markets, to the people to businesses that we’re going to be fiscally responsible then yeah I won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling I have no difficulty in doing that. I think it’s important that that message does get out and if that’s the opportunity we have to force a discussion on that issue then I say we do that.
HOST: That goes back to my original question, what do you think would happen if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised?
MULVANEY: Well, I don’t know. I’ve asked that question, I’ve asked that question a lot. I’ve heard Goolsbee on Sunday say it’d be catastrophic, I’ve heard others say that. I’ve asked the question what does that mean? What does catastrophic mean? No one seems to have the answer to that. I did some research last night from CRS, they don’t even know what that means. I think they’re guessing.
It is irresponsible for Mulvaney to commit to voting against raising the debt ceiling while admitting that he doesn’t even “know” what will happen if it isn’t raised. While Mulvaney claims the Congressional Research Service is “guessing” what a failure to raise the debt limit “means,” in fact, a 2008 report lays out exactly what some of the harmful repercussions would be: “Although not all the possible consequences of a government default are known, it would mean that the government could no longer meet all of its legal obligations. Not only the default, but the efforts to resolve it would arguably have negative repercussions on both domestic and international financial markets and economies.” A recent Center for American Progress report has further details on the “disastrous consequences for the U.S. economy” of failing to raise the debt ceiling.
It is worth noting that since the debt limit was first established in 1917, gradually raising it alongside the natural growth of the country’s needs has been completely uncontroversial. In fact, during the Bush years it was raised eight times; in 2006, it was even raised with the support of 51 Republican senators.