Debt ceiling claims

There was a time I would have said it was a bluff, with near 100% certainty. I’m not so sure now.

From what I remember, it was the Tea Party Republicans who started playing these games, and it was never clear if they ever really understood what the debt ceiling actually is. It’s obvious that lots of regular citizens don’t know what it is, so it’s not impossible that some of the people who got elected as part of a “drain the swamp” movement might also be genuinely ignorant of what this means.

And the new crop of “Freedom Caucus” members are probably even more ignorant than the original Tea Partiers. The FC has come of age in a period when threats to not raise the debt ceiling have become routine, and there’s no reason to think any of them have bothered to learn anything about what the debt ceiling actually is, and why it’s a bad idea to play chicken with it. This whole movement has elevated ignorance to the status of the greatest virtue, and so I think there’s a significant non-zero chance that they might actually be serious about this stupidity.

I’m ready for the Democrats to argue that Congress does not have the Constitutional authority to prevent the repayment of debt. So the Treasury department just keeps paying the bills and Federal reserve keeps cashing the Treasury’s checks.

No need to wait for the Supreme Court. Let the Republicans sue to stop the Treasury from paying bills.

Yes, they extracted austerity measures during the Obama administration when the US was still reeling from the Great Recession. That’s because they care more about harming Democratic presidents than helping their own constituents.

There’s definitely a non-zero chance that we default, and the rating agencies have accounted for it. Back in 2011, the last time this was a major issue, they downgraded the US from AAA (a tiny probability of default) to AA (a less tiny probability).

This Republican caucus is pretty unpredictable, as demonstrated by the Speaker votes. Who knows what will happen?

ETA: You can read about the 2011 Budget Control Act here: The fiscal fights of the Obama administration

Let’s recap the situation.

The Dems held the House in December. They knew that come January the Reps would take over and drop the government into hell. Like the Terminator, the current Reps cannot be bargained with, and cannot be eliminated. Therefore any pre-emptive solution would have be superior.

The debt ceiling only needs a majority of votes. The ceiling was raised in 2021 by a 50-49 vote. You’re probably thinking of a earlier procedural measure that did require 60 votes to defeat and so required Republican help.

The choices were clear. Do the dealing that would have brought all Dems on board and then deal with McConnell, who understands the consequences of not raising the ceiling with the surety that the Reps will take the blame. Or wait until January when the crazies would demand public evisceration as a pre-bargaining point.

Why didn’t it happen? It’s true that McConnell would be trying to force concessions. None of them would have been as crazy as what the House is now talking about, though. According to this Dec. 9 New York Times article, the reason why the Dems didn’t act was “a lack of political urgency.” Speaking of ceilings, come help scrape me off mine.

I think the “political” part of that urgency statement is the key. Democrats, at least some of them, believe that a debt ceiling fight against the far-right wing of the House Republican Caucus will be a winning issue for them. It has been in the past.

You have the position of “we shouldn’t default on our debt” vs. “cut Social Security and Medicare or we will force a default on the debt”.

Alternatively, you have Democrats forcing through a debt ceiling increase during a lame-duck session, likely having to negotiate painful concessions within their own party and with Mitch McConnell, while the GOP gets to harp on about spendthrift Democrats. The GOP won the House - let them govern, if they can.

Actually, I was thinking of a plain majority vote. The Dems had 50 senators; the 'Pubs had 50 senators. If Manchin votes no, the bill fails, unless one of the Republicans breaks ranks.

I still say you are vastly overestimating the downside here. Fox News will obviously be telling their viewers that whatever happens is all the fault of the Dems. But given who is behind Fox News, do you really think they are going to be shilling for the tiny GQP moron faction who are actually stupid enough to maybe want to follow through with a default? Do you think the financial backers of the GOP (or Trump, or DeSantis) want the stock market down 70% and economic disaster just to stick it to the Democrats?

I have no confidence that any of these people care about democracy. But they care about their money.

I’m saying that the same people who wouldn’t vote for McCarthy can screw it up for the rest of us. They forced him to make it harder pass a debt ceiling bill. Those people are nihilists and don’t care what happens as long as (1) they get attention and (2) own the libs.

We came close enough to get downgraded, with a bunch of Republicans that would all get labeled RINOs by today’s set of loonies.

By whom? Boebert? That only matters if that’s the line Fox News, Trump, DeSantis are pushing. If it comes down to the wire, Fox News is not going to enable an actual default.

By MT Greene, Gaetz, Boebert, etc.

Anyway, what else can I say? I hope you’re right and the debt ceiling is raised without default and without gutting too many programs.

ETA: Removed “another” from up there. I don’t know what I was thinking? Another shutdown, maybe.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we could see some stupid shit like the government shutting down. We could see vulnerable people hurt. That’s certainly possible. But we’re not going to default.

I understand the thinking behind this, but I strongly disagree. The FC terrorists truly want to take the government down. The public evisceration I mentioned already occurred, by McCarthy in the front of the nation. The debt ceiling fight will be a worse spectacle and worse for the actual public. A default, a lowering of the bond rating, a weakening of the dollar, lost jobs, a hit to the GDP, any or any might be the outcome. Sitting back and watching the Reps destroy themselves was enjoyable before the House was sworn in. We’re all in this mess now. Very few political predictions have much meaning, but I’m confident that predicting the shit will hit the fan is one of them.

Dealing with Manchin - or Sinema - would have been easier than whatever is forthcoming, as I said above.

But the Dems had no incentive to do anything but eat popcorn for that.

I just don’t see how you grant the FC so much power to destroy the U.S. economy, when that’s not what 100% of the Dems want and not what the other 95% of the GOP (including Trump, DeSantis, and all the large financial backers) want.

They will make a lot of noise, but ultimately they have no power to carry through with a default bluff. Nobody needs to deal with them at that point, because they are a tiny percentage of Congress, and they ultimately don’t control much of the GOP propaganda machine either.

There are 222 Reps to 212 Dems. (1 vacancy) Twenty Reps voted against McCarthy. How does any part of that math say that nobody needs to deal with them?

222 will participate in the bluff and milk it for whatever they can, probably to the point of government shutdowns and some degree of disruption and harm when there might be some political upside. The Dems might cave to the bluff in important ways.

But to follow through on the bluff and precipitate an actual default? The math seems quite straightforward. 20 are maybe stupid enough to be willing to do that, 434 are not.

So, should Biden just say, “send me a clean debt ceiling increase or go pound sand”? I mean, they will definitely blink, why negotiate?

Yes, and by my calculations, you’d only need to break away 6 out of the 222 Republican House members in order to get the debt ceiling passed. Six who realize that this fight will likely cost them their jobs in 2 years if this goes on, and the public is hurt. Six who have some concept of history, and how this has gone in the past.

With this fight, the 20 in the idiot faction don’t have as much power as they did in the fight for the speakership.

My understanding is that some of the concessions that McCarthy made make it harder to pass a debt ceiling bill. This seems to conflict with both of your statements that it’s simple math – do you know what those concessions were? What happens if, in the middle of the debt ceiling negotiations, one of the crazies calls for a new vote on the Speaker?

I’m fairly sure that the verbal concessions that McCarthy made to the morons are not a binding suicide pact for the nation.

I think those concessions and the ability for any member to call for a Speaker vote are now in the House rules.