Tag: debt ceiling
Danziger Draws

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City and Vermont. He is a long time cartoonist for The Rutland Herald and is represented by Counterpoint Syndicate. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.


Raging Battles Over Trump And Debt Ceiling Split GOP Senate Leadership

Percolating behind the scenes of the spectacular House Republican train wreck is a Senate Republican battle royal over leadership of the conference that promises to drag out over the next couple of years.

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who already lost one bid last November to unseat Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, plans to continue nipping at the longtime leader's heels despite only garnering 10 votes to McConnell's 37 last fall.

Echoing Donald Trump's perennial criticism of McConnell, Scott told The Hill he's "tired of caving" on raising the debt limit and plans to lobby against McConnell making a deal with Democrats to avert a GOP-manufactured economic meltdown.

“I’m not going to back down,” Scott told The Hill.

Scott's declaration comes in the wake of news that McConnell ousted him and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah from their powerful positions on the Senate Commerce Committee, where they have sought to block agreement on fundamental congressional business—such as keeping the government's lights on. Specifically, Scott took aim at the $1.7 trillion year-end spending package that funds the federal government through September and ultimately passed with 18 votes from Senate Republicans.

Lee tried to torpedo the $1.7 trillion bill by offering an anti-migrant poison pill amendment aimed at reinstating Title 42. Trump also jumped into the fray, releasing a video urging "every single Republican" to vote against the spending package.

McConnell eventually hailed the passage of the bill as a win for Republicans because it increased defense spending above the rate of inflation while nondefense, non-veteran spending increased below that rate of inflation.

Scott and Lee are both part of a pro-Trump Senate GOP group that is promising to dog McConnell throughout the coming cycle. Ejecting them from the Commerce Committee sends a clear signal to other Senate MAGA enthusiasts—Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Braun of Indiana, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—that kicking up too much dust will come with consequences.

On the other hand, Scott and Lee have very little to lose now by becoming perpetual thorns in McConnell's side—which, frankly, they would have been anyway.

In April 2021, Scott pushed a policy through the Senate Republican Conference stating their opposition to any debt-ceiling increases unless they were accompanied by "cuts in federal spending of an equal or greater amount" or otherwise "meaningful structural reform.”

Last month, Scott and Lee spearheaded a letter to President Biden signed by a total of 24 Senate Republicans who pledged to stick by that Senate GOP policy.

Scott, at the urging of Trump, spent much of the 2022 cycle attempting to poke holes in McConnell's armor. While boosting his fundraising network as chief of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Scott also released an 11-point plan promising to raise taxes on tens of millions while sunsetting Social Security and Medicare. It was a polling disaster, and McConnell devoted a lot of energy to shooting the plan down so it wouldn't kneecap Senate Republicans' effort to retake the upper chamber.

Now it's clear that the McConnell-Scott skirmish is anything but settled in what will continue to be the biggest challenge to McConnell’s leadership position since he assumed the post in 2007.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Far Right Pundits Urge 'Game Of Chicken' On Debt Ceiling

Far Right Pundits Urge 'Game Of Chicken' On Debt Ceiling

Prominent right-wing media figures are encouraging House Republicans to use the debt ceiling as leverage to extract their political aims from a Democratic White House and Senate. Their hostage-taking approach courts an economic catastrophe and the unraveling of the constitutional order.

Fox News prime-time host and Republican propagandist Sean Hannity used a Tuesday night interview with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the U.S. Capitol to urge him to ignore critics and play “a game of chicken” when the debt limit approaches later this year, without specifying what Republicans should demand as their price for raising it.

Hannity’s upmarket counterpart Hugh Hewitt, the Salem Radio host and Washington Post columnist, tweeted on Wednesday morning that House Republicans should “adopt the summary line: ‘We won't raise the debt limit until we close the border.’”

An hour later, he promotedNational Review writer Jim Geraghty’s suggestion that they instead demand “repeal of the authorization of 87,000 new IRS personnel.” (Republicans and right-wing media oppose IRS funding included in the Inflation Reduction Act that would increase revenue by targeting wealthy tax cheats.) Hewitt added: “That may even be better than border security. Both building the wall and repealing the 87,000 are key priorities. Pick one.”

It’s not a great sign that right-wing media decided to take a hostage before settling on their demands.

Congress passes laws that dictate how the federal government raises and spends money. Since the revenues brought in by those laws are insufficient to cover the outlays, the U.S. Treasury funds the deficit by selling debt. Congress created the debt ceiling through a 1917 law, setting a statutory limit on the total debt the government can accrue.

Some have argued that the law is unconstitutional because the government can’t run up debts and then refuse to pay them. But the question has largely been moot since Congress has regularly raised or suspended that limit ever since, most recently in December 2021, when it was set to “just under $31.4 trillion”; a figure that will be reached some time in 2023.

The debt ceiling has at times been a focus of intense political debate. Congressional Republicans used the threat of a debt ceiling breach during President Barack Obama’s tenure to push for deficit reduction. That tactic faded from use under President Donald Trump, who was happy to run up large federal deficits.

But with a Democrat back in the White House, Republicans divulged in late 2022 that they would use debt limit brinkmanship to force big cuts to social safety net spending if they took back the House in the midterm elections. And after they won a narrow majority, the party’s right flank reportedly demanded that McCarthy pledge “to not raise the debt limit without major cuts — including efforts to reduce spending on so-called mandatory programs, which include Social Security and Medicare,” as their price for supporting his speaker bid.

The results of a debt ceiling breach would be calamitous.

“Once the government hits the debt ceiling and exhausts all available extraordinary measures, it is no longer allowed to issue debt and soon after will run out of cash-on-hand,” the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reports. “At that point, given annual deficits, incoming receipts would be insufficient to pay millions of daily obligations as they come due. Therefore, the federal government would have to at least temporarily default on many of its obligations, from Social Security payments and salaries for federal civilian employees and the military to veterans’ benefits and utility bills, among others.”

Hannity, in his comments to McCarthy, suggested that the impact would be negligible, but seems to be conflating a debt limit crisis with the sort of partial government shutdown that occurred most recently during the Trump administration. As CRFB notes, “many more parties are not paid in a default. … While a government shutdown would be disruptive, a government default could be disastrous.”

How disastrous? “An actual default would roil global financial markets and create chaos, since both domestic and international markets depend on the relative economic and political stability of U.S. debt instruments and the U.S. economy,” according to CRFB. “A Moody’s Analytics report released in September 2021 estimated that a default could have similar macroeconomic consequences to the Great Recession: a four percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline, nearly six million lost jobs, and an unemployment rate of nine percent. In addition, Moody’s predicted a $15 trillion loss in household wealth, with stocks dropping by as much as one-third at the depths of the selloff.”

There are options available to avert such a disaster. The White House and House and Senate leaders could agree on some sort of deal that provides Republicans with a fig leaf. If the House GOP leadership remains intransigent, some of its members could sign onto a dispatch petition putting a clean debt limit increase on the floor. The Biden administration could also act unilaterally by using its authority to mint a $1 trillion platinum coin so the government can pay its expenses; or adopt Matt Yglesias’ plan of “swapping out old bonds with high face values and low interest rates for equivalent-yielding bonds with low face values and high interest rates”; or say that the debt limit is unconstitutional and that Biden will violate it rather than violating all the other laws that require him to spend money.

But Republican extremists and their right-wing media supporters are unlikely to take any of those options lying down. They want chaos and massive, unpopular spending cuts, and are already signaling that they will fight to get them.

And that means we may be looking at two years of a very chaotic Congress.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

With Jellyfish McCarthy As 'Leader,' Republicans Prepare To Abandon Ukraine

With Jellyfish McCarthy As 'Leader,' Republicans Prepare To Abandon Ukraine

You don’t even need to live near the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans to know where the Republican Party is headed. All you have to do is look at the human jellyfish that is Kevin McCarthy – a quivering, flapping piece of protoplasm so transparently without a heart or a soul you can see right through him.

And yet, like the oceanic creature he resembles, McCarthy can sting. The innocents he is getting ready to lay low with what’s left of his power in the Republican Party are far, far away, suffering the steady bombardment of Russian artillery, missiles, and drones. Yes, Kevin McCarthy, that tower of democratic principle and dedication, is getting ready to abandon the Ukrainian people to the psychotic ravages of Vladimir Putin, who has decided he wants their land and whatever is left of their cities and infrastructure when he’s finished bombing them.

Politico reported yesterday that aides to President Joe Biden are pointing to an “internal rift” in the Republican Party over spending for Ukraine and are forecasting slippage of support for the war that is raging 4900 miles from their comfy offices on Capitol Hill. In fact, it has already happened. The only votes against the $40 billion aid package for Ukraine in the spring were cast by Republicans – 57 members of the House and 11 Senators opposed the aid package intended to help the beleaguered country fight back against the Russian invasion that was at that point only a couple of months old.

Conservative – or shall we say, radical – Republicans went out on the stump and said they were voting against aid to Ukraine because it wasn’t offset by cuts in domestic spending. They didn’t spell out what cuts they were thinking about in the spring, but they haven’t been as shy lately, popping right out of the closet and putting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on the chopping block if they take over the House in 2023.

Republicans also made the case that money spent to defend our allies in Ukraine – and the rest of Europe if Putin’s slavering about a new Russian empire is to be believed – could be better spent to defend our southern border and bring down inflation, however the hell that’s supposed to work.

It's all about bashing Biden and the Democrats, of course, only this time they’re not using grade school textbooks on “sex” and scary trans kids. They’re getting ready to make a political issue out of the war in Ukraine. All those graves found in the forest outside of Izium and in fields outside Bucha? Tough luck, Ukrainian civilians. Republicans are more interested in cutting the budget and squawking about the “war” on our border than they are about the very real shooting war that’s killing Ukrainians overseas.

McCarthy told Punchbowl News on Tuesday that if Republicans take the House in November, aid to Ukraine isn’t going to be “a free blank check. I think people [Republican House members] are gonna be sitting in a recession and they're not going to write a blank check to Ukraine." While “Ukraine is important,” McCarthy told the Washington D.C. political website ($300 a year for a subscription), he went on to emphasize that Republicans have other priorities, including of course “the border” – read: all those brown people invading our cities and taking our jobs – and preventing women from controlling their reproductive health. Also, in for some serious cuts is funding for COVID research and even the vaccines and treatments which are currently free to Americans because the federal government is paying for them.

So elect Republicans, Kevin McCarthy told Punchbowl News, and watch the bodies pile up in Ukraine and right here at home as new variants of COVID send the death count way, way up.

The White House calculus is that Republican support for Ukraine won’t crater, because what will happen if Ukraine suffers losses on the battlefield and Russia “emerges triumphant?” Politico forecasts a “political blowback” against Republicans if that were to happen. But a quick look at recent history reveals that the MAGA-centric Republican Party doesn’t give much of a shit about blowback – see also: what happened after Roe was overturned. Oh, a few of them gave their anti-choice websites a quick bath, but just look around you. Republicans are happily running full speed ahead on their anti-woman, anti-immigrant, crime-crime-crime agenda. You think they’ll be shy about running on starving Ukrainians of weapons, ammo, food, and other supplies?

I’ve got a bridge to sell you…

Meanwhile, over in the country the Republican Party is getting ready to consign to the ash heap, Russian cruise missiles and kamikaze drones continue to fly, hitting towns and villages along the front lines in Eastern Ukraine and in the south near Kherson as well as the usual civilian targets in Kyiv and other major cities. With winter on the horizon, the Russians unveiled a new set of targets this week, too: power plants. A Russian cruise missile hit the Burshtyn coal-fired power station in the Ivano-Frankivsk region yesterday along with more missiles causing multiple explosions in Kyiv, Chernihiv and Vinnytsia, the Kyiv Independent reported this morning. President Volodymyr Zelensky announced yesterday that three powerplants in Ukraine were destroyed in the previous 24 hours.

On Tuesday, Zelensky told the Kyiv Independent that fully one-third of Ukrainian power plants had been destroyed by Russian missiles. Ukraine uses vulnerable thermal power plants to generate steam to heat homes and businesses, according to The New York Times.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reports that Russia is preparing the ground for a false-flag attack on the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant near Kherson. Russian forces are under heavy attack from the Ukrainian army in the Kherson area. They have pulled back from multiple defensive positions recently and are beginning to "set conditions for Russian forces to damage the dam and then blame Ukraine while using the resulting floods to cover their own retreat further south into Kherson Oblast," the ISW reported this morning.

Meanwhile, an independent podcast out of Russia known as “Naked Pravda” is reporting that its sources, including someone who works inside the Russian FSB, or Federal Security Service, say that Russia’s “irrecoverable losses,” including soldiers killed, wounded, or gone AWOL, total 90,000 since the beginning of the war. That figure is close to a Pentagon estimate in August that Russia had lost 70-80,000 on the battlefield. The British Defense Ministry has also stated that Russian losses, including KIA’s and soldiers wounded badly enough they could not return to the battlefield, stand at about 80,000.

So that’s where things stand in Ukraine. Russia can’t win a single engagement on the battlefield. Their loses are going up so fast, Putin is sending young, barely trained recruits to take the place of seasoned soldiers who have been killed. And Putin has turned to terror-bombing Ukrainian civilians with cruise missiles and armed Iranian drones to make up for his inability to show any Russian gains in Ukraine.

With all of this going on in Ukraine, what are Republicans doing in this country? Why, they’re following the Jellyfish-In-Chief’s lead and laying the groundwork to turn the war in Ukraine into one of the top issues they’re going to hammer come the 2024 campaign – which will begin on November 9, the day the midterms are over, even before the outcomes are completely decided.

No sense in wasting any time consigning the citizens of Ukraine to the ravages of Donald Trump’s friend, Vladimir Putin, is there? Kevin McCarthy is out there leading the way. Could his hero, Donald Trump, be far behind?

Watch them turn the next fight over the debt ceiling into an excuse to hang the Ukrainian people out to dry. Four Republican members of the House, all of whom expressed interest in running the Budget Committee if their party takes over next year, told Bloomberg last week they will refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats come to heel on entitlement spending and other issues like the border.

They did not specifically mention support for Ukraine, but Republicans will do anything to win, anything, including causing a global financial meltdown while the bodies pile up in Ukraine.

Watch this space.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter