"The Hostage is Free!"
Debt Limit Games Are Over
For nearly three years now, Republicans have been periodically taking the entire U.S. economy hostage and threatening a catastrophic default on our obligations in an attempt to extract various unpopular policy concessions and draconian cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and other vital programs from Democrats.
After a months-long debacle in 2011, President Obama agreed to a deal with the Republicans that ultimately resulted in the sequester kicking in after Republicans refused to agree to a balanced package of cuts and new revenues from the wealthy and corporations. That 2011 showdown dealt a deep blow to our economy just when the recovery was taking hold.
No more and never again.
In late 2012, during yet another budget crisis manufactured by Republicans, President Obama declared that he would never again negotiate on the debt ceiling because Congress needs to pay the bills it already racked up. Period. End of story.
What happened between then and now? President Obama didn’t negotiate on the debt limit ever again and Republicans caved and raised the debt limit twice with no significant concessions from Democrats.
Today, after a half-hearted attempt to pair a debt limit increase with a minor policy item (that Democrats and President Obama also support), Speaker Boehner announced that there was not enough support among Republicans (aka the Default Caucus) to pass such a bill. Instead, he would allow a debt limit increase with no strings attached to pass with almost exclusively Democratic votes. The New York Times correctly called this move a “complete capitulation” by Republicans.
The hostage is now free, forever.
Since Republicans also recently agreed to a two-year budget deal and partial repeal of the sequester, it means that their government shutdown games are also over for the foreseeable future.
BOTTOM LINE: The era of careening from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis is over. Now it’s time for Republicans to join Democrats and progressives and focus on creating greater opportunities for all Americans by voting to raise the minimum wage, funding early childhood education, supporting equal pay for women, and backing other policies that will help create an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.