Debt ceiling win

So, it’s not over in the specifics, but Obama’s fingers in his ears, refuse to negotiate, strategy on the debt ceiling seems to have worked just as planned. Who better than Chait to break it down:

It’s over. House Republicans, following a literal and metaphorical retreat, haveannounced they plan to lift the debt ceiling without extracting policy concessions. Whatever mini-dramas may follow, the GOP leadership has both recognized the need to abandon their strategy of using the debt ceiling as a hostage and also to recognize this publicly.

The GOP announcement came wrapped in a face-saving demand that “if the Senate or House fails to pass a budget in that time, Members of Congress will not be paid by the American people for failing to do their job.” The point here is to let right-wingers believe, or at least claim, that they succeeded in extracting some concession in return for not playing Russian roulette with the world economy.

But it’s a superficial gesture…

The main credit here goes to the Obama administration for recognizing that enmeshing the debt ceiling with policy negotiations was a horrible idea that it had to stop dead in its tracks. To let debt ceiling hikes become contingent on fiscal policy agreements was to set up endless future crises that would eventually trigger default when one party or another held out for a little too much.

The whole key to making Obama’s extortion-squelching plan, and saving American government from endless cycles of hostage drama that would eventually end in a default, was to credibly insist that he would not trade anything for a debt ceiling hike. After he moved his red line on tax cuts, Idoubted that Obama could really make this stick. But he has…

Letting Republicans weaponize the debt ceiling in the first place in 2011 was one of the crucial errors of Obama’s presidency. He appears to have corrected it.

Short version.  You go Barack!  And, you go American democracy!  The idea that a political party would intentionally inflict a huge injury on the American economy to try and win a budget negotiation has hopefully been put to rest for a while.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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