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Monday, December 09, 2019

Obama Shoots For Fences on Debt Deal

At his late-afternoon press conference on the debt ceiling fight yesterday, the president made clear he doesn’t want a short-term fix.

“I don’t think that the American people sent us here to avoid tough problems,” he said. “That’s, in fact, what drives them nuts about Washington — when both parties simply take the path of least resistance — and I don’t want to do that here.”

He said the nation has “a unique opportunity to do something big” and shouldn’t “kick the can down the road” on the broader issue of government red ink.

But is a grand bargain really a possibility here? This is the least productive Congress in recent history–whether measured by number of votes or significant bills passed. The GOP majority is taking its “small government” philosophy to the extreme, effectively halting progress on every issue. And with loud voices on the right essentially denying reality and saying the government won’t–even that it can’t–default, Obama’s “nuclear” option–invoking the 14th amendment to say the debt ceiling is unconstitutional–is looking more attractive.

 

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Republicans need the political press to do a lot of bad journalism in order to carry out their strategy of forcing through devastating spending cuts by leveraging the prospect of a calamitous default on U.S. debt. They need political journalists to produce wishy-washy “both sides” coverage that hides the party’s ultimate culpability and shields it from blame. And the latest coverage from The New York Times shows that their plan may already be working.

It shouldn’t be difficult to acknowledge that Republicans will be the ones at fault if the U.S. breaches the statutory limit on federal borrowing in June. Members of Congress of both parties routinely voted for clean debt limit hikes during Donald Trump’s presidency, which also saw record debt increases. But with Joe Biden in the White House, GOP leaders startedsaying last fall that they would require significant spending cuts – including to Social Security and Medicare – alongside further debt limit increases if their party won the House.

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