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If the GOP is serious about blowing up our economy to sabotage Obamacare, President Obama has no choice but to remember the words President Bill Clinton spoke to our Joe Conason during the last debt limit crisis.

Over the last few days, Republicans have introduced a new strategy for stopping Obamacare before the law’s full implementation on January 1, 2014, according to the National Review‘s Robert Costa. Instead of demanding that the president defund his signature legislative accomplishment in exchange for keeping the government open, now they want to use the debt limit to force the president to delay Obamacare for a year.

New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait explains, “Republicans here are talking themselves out of using a conventional bomb and instead using a nuclear bomb.”

A government shutdown would definitely stymie the economy, resulting in, for instance, soldiers missing paychecks and losing their homes, as Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) recently pointed out to a constituent.

However, default on American debt would likely create a contagious financial crisis similar to or larger than the one that destroyed eight million jobs in 2008. There’s evidence that even threatening such a default hurts the economy and there’s no doubt that the last threat and the resulting crisis was behind the United States losing its AAA credit rating for the first time ever.

President Obama has vowed that there will not be a sequel to the last debt limit crisis.

This vow worked early in 2013 just after he was re-elected, when the GOP made a deal with themselves and raised the debt limit under the condition that Congress wouldn’t get paid if the Senate didn’t pass a budget. That extension was only supposed to last a few months but has taken us to nearly the end of 2013 because the deficit is falling so quickly.

The strategy of tying a delay of Obamacare to a raise of the debt limit could just be another way the GOP leadership attempts to patronize the base and minimize insurgencies as they trudge toward doing what they have to do: fund the government and raise the debt limit.

But teasing the base with empty promises can only work for so long.

The Tea Party’s appeal to the wider world has all but disappeared, but they still play an outsized role in GOP primaries and in this effort to destroy Obamacare they’re supported by the incredibly well funded folks T the Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks.

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein points out, “eventually, someone’s going to make a mistake, and Boehner won’t manage to pull his people back from the brink at the last minute.”

If that happens, President Obama should remember what Bill Clinton said he would do. He wouldn’t mint a platinum coin; he would just raise the limit on his own and “force the courts to stop me.”

“I think the Constitution is clear and I think this idea that the Congress gets to vote twice on whether to pay for [expenditures] it has appropriated is crazy,” Clinton said.

The serious threat of default is a cudgel that no political party has ever used so brazenly before. If the GOP is going to wield it again and again knowing that what they’re demanding is unreasonable, President Obama should just say, “the Constitution requires me to pay the bills Congress racked up, and I intend to pay them.”

Photo: veni markovski via

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