We've Only Just Begun
Katrina vanden Heuvel, lamenting the debt-ceiling fiasco, noted
On National Public Radio last week, Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican deputy whip, was giddy about the potential for calamity. Asked if it was a mistake to try to cut spending by threatening the U.S. economy, Cole replied: “No, I don't think so. Frankly, I think it's one of the good things that's come out of this. We'll never have a debt-ceiling increase again without serious efforts to deal with the long-term spending.”
That was from a GOP leader on the House side. Over on the Senate side, there is similar determination with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as Think Progress reported at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern), vowing on Monday afternoon
It set the template for the future. In the future, Neil, no president — in the near future, maybe in the distant future — is going to be able to get the debt ceiling increased without a re-ignition of the same discussion of how do we cut spending and get America headed in the right direction. I expect the next president, whoever that is, is going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again in 2013, so we'll be doing it all over.
Progressives should instead push to repeal it. The debt ceiling was intended to check the growth of federal debt, but it has clearly failed in that endeavor. All spending must already be approved by Congress in the budgeting and appropriations processes, so the debt ceiling serves as nothing more than a redundant yet dangerous roadblock that can be taken hostage by a minority party in Congress.
The Center for American Progress is a little late. Consistently loyal, though not obsequious, to President Obama, it conveniently made its recommendation just after the House approved an Obama-negotiated deal casting the elderly and the needy aside. There were several optionsthe President could have considered to avert the cut-and-paste monstrosity. He probably would have prevailed and any of them would have undermined the practice CAP now has advocated abolishing. This was the perfect time to "push to repeal the debt ceiling." And in fact, half the House Democrats, putting country above fidelity to one man, voted to reject the deal. They understood, presumably, how ludicrous a debt ceiling is when appropriations already have been approved.
House Republicans, who voted overwhelmingly for the deal, can see the future. The congressmen who chose to raise the debt ceiling, though giving political cover to Obama, have emboldened Tom Cole, Mitch McConnell, the tea party. That is a cost the country will be paying long after President Obama's presidency has expired.