With Debt Ceiling Blackmail, McCarthy Again Betrays America

Kevin McCarthy
Rep. Kevin McCarthy

When House Republicans — or any Republicans, for that matter — claim to feel deep concern over the national debt, the only honest response is raucous laughter. These are the same politicians, after all, led by the same gelded Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who voted in lockstep year after year to raise the debt ceiling while former President Donald Trump imposed trillions of dollars in new deficits and debt (despite his mendacious promises to achieve budget balance).

Republicans care less about fiscal responsibility than Hannibal Lecter cared about table manners.

And now they have set up a potential debt default, unless President Joe Biden accedes to their demand for destructive and unpopular cuts to programs that support families, veterans, education, health, science and the environment. The president has said that while the budget is negotiable, the debt ceiling is not.

Faced with their hostage-taking extremism, there is also only one appropriate answer.

Biden should tell McCarthy to promptly fornicate himself — and then proceed to raise the debt ceiling, despite the absence of congressional approval, as provided by the Constitution. Taking that action would reflect the considered advice of Bill Clinton, former professor of constitutional law and the only president in living memory who actually balanced the budget and began to pay down the national debt.

Nearly 12 years ago, when congressional Republicans tried to blackmail President Barack Obama with debt default, Clinton told me what he thought Obama should do. Remember that as president, he had faced down Newt Gingrich as speaker, leading a pack of extremists not wholly unlike the current gang in Congress, and that they too had hinted heavily at breaching the debt ceiling.

"I think (the Gingrich Republicans) figured I'd be smart enough to explain to the American people that they were refusing to pay for the expenses they had voted for when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were president," Clinton said in July 2011. "And that would make them look bad."

As Clinton explained, the 14th Amendment's "public debt clause" clearly spells out the constitutional provisions governing the national debt: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned." Raising the debt ceiling merely finances payment for previous federal spending as "authorized by law," as in congressional appropriations.

"The Constitution is clear and this idea that the Congress gets to vote twice on whether to pay for (expenditures) it has appropriated is crazy," said Clinton. "You can't say, 'Well, we won the last election, and we didn't vote for some of that stuff, so we're going to throw the whole country's credit into arrears.'" He put the matter bluntly, adding that he would have used the 14th Amendment "without hesitation."

Given the catastrophic potential consequences of default, following Clinton's lead is the truly responsible course. Debt repudiation will guarantee the recession that Biden's policies have so far allowed us to avoid; it will tank not only the U.S. economy but will surely devastate global growth as well.

In the longer term, our country would no longer be viewed as a financial safe haven — and the status of the dollar as the world's reserve currency will almost certainly be forfeited. As the Republicans know, that ruinous change is precisely what the Chinese and Russian regimes have been trying to inflict on us for years.

Why, you might naively ask, would the Republicans assist our foreign opponents in achieving a goal that will harm their own country, America's democratic allies and the future prospects of all our children? Why would they recklessly impose a needless delinquency that will cost millions of jobs now and risk a lasting worldwide downturn?

Evidently, they believe that by tanking the economy, and mortgaging our future to our adversaries, they can shift blame onto Biden — and that this will enable them to win next year's election. What voters should understand is that they value nothing except power, least of all the nation's stability or the welfare of their constituents.

These partisan gangsters keep finding new ways to endanger America's security and prosperity. Now they refuse to approve what ought to be the routine repayment of debts they previously legislated. They know that this betrayal will have dire repercussions for their own country and constituents. It is hard to imagine a budget tactic that could come any closer to outright treason.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

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