Wednesday, July 27, 2011 | 2 a.m.
In the House of Representatives, there is considerable dissension over raising the debt ceiling among Republicans. After walking away from negotiations with the White House, House Speaker John Boehner has offered a plan that would temporarily raise the debt ceiling so the nation doesn’t default on its bills.
President Barack Obama and the Democrats oppose it, but as we have noted before, Boehner is pushing it as a way to try to make them look bad. But it is backfiring. Republicans are attacking each other over the plan, and Boehner can’t get enough support in his own caucus.
Boehner’s top lieutenant, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, told the caucus Tuesday to quit grumbling and whining and support the plan. He said voting to raise the debt limit “sucks” but said it must be done. The nation will default on its debts within a week if the limit isn’t raised.
But that argument hasn’t garnered much Republican support. Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said he couldn’t vote for it, and his view carries weight. His group’s membership includes more than half of the Republicans in the House.
Jordan argued that Boehner’s plan, which makes significant cuts, doesn’t go far enough. He said Congress should approve the “cut, cap and balance” bill that would cut and cap spending and mandate a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. The bill passed the House but has stalled in the Senate, where Democrats have wisely blocked it. The legislation would mandate draconian cuts and make fundamental changes to the federal government.
Republicans have done this before, trying to jam through dramatic policy changes with scant debate. For example, earlier this year, the Ryan budget plan would have ended Medicare in its current form and gutted other government programs, including Social Security.
Those types of proposals should be subject to thorough debate and discussion. They certainly shouldn’t be rushed through, yet that’s what Republicans are doing. They claim they have a mandate from the voters, who gave them control of the House in last year’s election. But their plans just aren’t serious, and they certainly don’t reflect the will of the people. People want to see government work — they don’t want to see it gutted.
Things in Washington have stopped as the Republicans have behaved like a toddler throwing a tantrum. By tying their extremist views to the debt ceiling, the Republican hard-liners are holding the nation’s economy hostage. They have refused to negotiate and that only pushes the nation closer to the Aug. 2 default deadline.
“This is no way to run the greatest country on Earth,” Obama said in his speech Monday night. “It’s a dangerous game that we’ve never played before, and we can’t afford to play it now.”
Although there have been political fights over the debt ceiling in the past, things have been worked out with less vitriol than now exists in Washington. Both parties have seen the need to raise the amount of debt the federal government can carry. In the past four decades, the debt limit has been increased nearly 60 times. Republican icon Ronald Reagan increased the debt limit 18 times, and George W. Bush increased it seven times.
Republicans in Congress should quit playing games, and do the right thing by increasing the debt limit.