In the next couple months, the Treasury Department predicts the U.S. will hit “D-Day,” the day the debt reaches the $14.3 trillion ceiling. The reality of the impending deadline has forced some Republican lawmakers to drop their “showdown” showboating for a more sober position on the debt ceiling. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) admitted that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be “a financial disaster” and send the country “into a tailspin.” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) said such a failure is “unworkable” because “obviously, you can’t default.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) put it more bluntly, stating that this position would “bring collapse and calamity around the world.”
But after backing away from decimating the nation’s economic future, Republicans have now decided to ratchet up the pressure and the take it hostage. A whole host of Republican lawmakers are now angling to use the debt ceiling as leverage to enact severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other saftey net programs. Today on Fox News Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised his entire caucus would vote against raisin the debt ceiling unless the White House agrees to cut entitlements:
MCCONNELL: There are 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. My prediction is not a single one of the 47 Republicans would vote to raise the debt ceiling unless it includes with it some credible effort to do something about our debt. Now the House is another matter, I’m just predicitng the Senate Republican votes. I don’t believe Senate Republicans won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling. Now Democrats can raise it themselves if they choose to if they want to and try to do nothing whatsoever about the problem. I think to get any of the 47 Republicans, you’ve got to do something believe is credible –that the markets believe is credible, that the American people believe is credible, that foreign countries believe is credible — in addition to raising the debt ceiling.
If there is any question about Senate Republicans’ intentions, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-TX) swiftly put it to bed. The “debt ceiling vote is ultimate leverage to get fiscal reform,” he tweeted yesterday. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would not only likely result in a government shutdown and weaker financial markets, and — as Center For American Progress’s David Min points out — higher interest costs on U.S. debt would ultimately make the long-term budget situation “even more problematic.”
Republicans have certainly received clear warning. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently warned Republican lawmakers not to “play around with” raising the debt ceilling and use it as a “bargaining chip.” President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austin Goolsbee said, “If we get to the point where you’ve damaged the full faith and credit of the United States, that would be the first default in history caused purely by insanity.” But, as the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benan notes, Senate Republicans insists on the position of “do what I want,” or “I’ll cause catastrophe on purpose.”