Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), in keeping with other GOP lawmakers, recently stated that the GOP should not vote to increase the debt limit unless Democrats and President Obama make major concessions on federal spending cuts. That position, however, is exactly opposite the one he took in 2006, when he urged his Senate colleagues to unanimously vote to increase the debt limit, saying it should not be used “to control government debt and deficits.”
In a recent interview with Newsmax TV, Grassley said the GOP should use the vote as leverage to “get a lot of things done” on spending and budgetary changes:
GRASSLEY: My take is that we should have thought about not increasing the debt limit before we spent the money. […]
But the point is, we’ve got tremendous leverage by not increasing the debt to get a lot of things done that we want done – tackling entitlements and tackling a constitutional amendment requiring a balance budget. I support moving in both of those areas.
But in March 2006, Grassley took the polar opposite position to the one he is taking now. Before the Senate ultimately voted to increase the debt limit to $8.965 trillion, then-Senate Finance Chairman Grassley told his colleagues that the debt limit was not an accurate predictor of future fiscal problems, and that they should not use it to make assumptions about those problems. The Senate should “not have an extended debate” about the issue, Grassley said, because not increasing the debt limit is “a choice that we shouldn’t make and we wouldn’t want to make”:
GRASSLEY: Given these facts, it should be obvious to everyone that the federal debt limit provides a misleading and inaccurate picture of the government’s future liabilities. Efforts to use the statutory debt limit to control government debt and deficits cannot succeed because it ignores the long-term budget problems. […]
And so I would hope we would not have an extended debate and a lot of breast-beating about the issue of increasing the national debt. … Now there will be a lot of debate about it, a lot of political points trying to be made, but the point is, we’ve got to keep the business of government going. […]
This ought to pass unanimously. It won’t. But it ought to.
During the presidency of George W. Bush, Grassley viewed the debt limit increase as such a non-issue that he admonished his Senate colleagues for not voting for it unanimously. Now, however, he’s willing to play politics on the issue just like the rest of his party.