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As McClatchy and the New York Times among others have documented, senators and representatives in the minority party have often voted against debt ceiling increases. Whether motivated by opposition to larger spending or tax legislation, or as a symbolic vote to embarrass the president and his Congressional majority (as Sens. Obama and Reid did in 2006), the 40 debt ceiling increases since 1980 have rarely been unanimous.

Which is what makes the GOP's hostage-taking so unique. Never before has the threat to block a debt limit increase been coupled with one party's intent and ability to actually do it. (As Reid described his own grandstanding, "The Republicans were in power—there were more of them.") After all, while Republican Speaker John Boehner has the numbers to deny a debt ceiling increase in the House, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell can prevent it from even coming to a vote. Of course, when George W. Bush sat in the Oval Office, GOP leaders including Boehner, McConnell, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and John Cornyn didn't just vote for seven increases in the debt ceiling. In November 2004, they all voted for the very kind of "clean" debt ceiling bill they refuse to offer President Obama now.

After having increases the national debt by 40 percent since his inauguration in January 2001, President George W. Bush in October 2004 called for his fourth hike in the nation's borrowing authority. His Treasury Secretary John Snow warned, "Given current projections, it is imperative that the Congress take action to increase the debt limit by mid-November," adding that his arsenal of fiscal tools, including tapping money intended for the civil service retirement fund, "will be exhausted."

But as the New York Times explained on November 17, 2004, Bush had to wait for his debt ceiling increase for a very simple reason:

Though an increase in the debt ceiling was never in doubt, Republican leaders in both houses of Congress postponed action on it last month, until after the elections, to deprive Democrats of a chance to accuse them of fiscal irresponsibility.
With his reelection safely secured, Republicans delivered Bush's debt ceiling increase in a stand-alone bill, with no conditions, no threats and no poison pills.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

By 52-44 in the Senate and 208-204 in the House, Republicans led Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) and Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) boosted the borrowing limit from $7.4 trillion to $8.2 trillion. Over 100 current Republican members of Congress voted "aye." Among them were the today's top two Senate Republicans (Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn) and the entire House leadership team (Boehner, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan).

And just why did President Bush and his allies insist that 11 percent increase was needed?

Administration officials contend that the annual deficits are undesirable but necessary to help stimulate an economic recovery and fight a global war on terrorism.
As Speaker Hastert's spokesman John Feehery put it just before the House vote:
"We have an obligation to keep the government in operation."

Alas, that was then and this is now. Dick Cheney's dictum ("Reagan proved deficits don't matter") is no longer operative with a Democrat in the White House. After the GOP took over the House in the 2010 midterms, Feehery argued in April 2011 that Republicans need "get something substantial in exchange for a vote on the debt ceiling." Determined to prove that "there's no daylight between the tea party and me," new Speaker John Boehner broke with his 2004 vote:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), fresh off the budget talks, told donors this weekend that if Obama wants an up or down vote on the debt ceiling he's not going to get it.

"The president says I want you to send me a clean bill," Boehner said. "Well guess what, Mr. President, not a chance you're going to get a clean bill."

"There will not be an increase in the debt limit without something really, really big attached to it," he continued in a clip of his remarks at a fundraiser that was played during "Face the Nation."

After the budget deal that ended the summer 2011 debt ceiling debacle, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared, "it's a hostage that's worth ransoming." And as he made clear to CNBC's Larry Kudlow, McConnell promised to do it again:
"What we have done, Larry, also is set a new template. In the future, any president, this one or another one, when they request us to raise the debt ceiling, it will not be clean anymore. This is just the first step. This, we anticipate, will take us into 2013. Whoever the new president is, is probably going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again. Then we will go through the process again and see what we can continue to achieve in connection with these debt ceiling requests of presidents to get our financial house in order."
Of course, in their few moments of candor, the GOP's best and brightest agree with President Obama that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be "catastrophic." While Speaker Boehner said default would trigger "financial disaster, not only for our country but for the worldwide economy," South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham warned of "financial collapse and calamity throughout the world." Or as Paul Ryan acknowledged, "You can't not raise the debt ceiling."

Unless, Republicans now argue, they don't occupy the White House.

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 12:20 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  story after story this winter has published (10+ / 0-)

    about the weakness of this recovery due to

    not the debt , nor taxes but.........

    but the uncertainty brought about by Republican stonewalling.

    There is no "both sides do it" argument. It is the Republicans trying to continue to stall the economy.

    •  Isn't it amazing though? (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sarenth, Jeff Y, OooSillyMe, RenMin, Matt Z

      I mean, when the GOP is in control they get what they want.

      Remember all those filibusters of Bush's judicial nominees?  Neither do I.

      Yet when the the Dems have the most control (even when they had the House too).. it seems like the GOP is still all-powerful.

      Well, I have full confidence that Obama will unleash his Wall Street Bankster Chief of Staff to attack the GOP and their 1% allies.  So never fear.

      The excuses for Obama's behavior have long since passed the point of predictability neccessary to qualify as an absurd production of Kabuki Theater.

      by Johnathan Ivan on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 09:16:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There were filibusters of Bush's judicial nominees (0+ / 0-)

        Remember that talk of the "nuclear option" back around 2005 or thereabouts?  It was because Democrats had filibustered a handful of Bush's most controversial nominees.  The "gang of 14" compromise prevented the Republicans from going nuclear, in return for a compromise that gave Democrats pretty much nothing in return.

        Note that the "nuclear option" wasn't hugely different from what we're now calling "filibuster reform".

        Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

        by TexasTom on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:20:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ah ha! (0+ / 0-)

          Yes, Yes I DO recall that little episode of Kabuki.

          And now Reid.. who could invoke the "nuclear" option any fking time he wanted..

          Doesn't.

          And since - as you correctly pointed out - the filibuster has been of no value to the Dems...

          Isn't it odd, nay even suspicious, that they insist on keeping around a rule which seems only to "thwart" them?

          Why, it's almost suspicious.

          The excuses for Obama's behavior have long since passed the point of predictability neccessary to qualify as an absurd production of Kabuki Theater.

          by Johnathan Ivan on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 01:56:07 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  By all "apparent" appearances (0+ / 0-)

      it's only the R's.

      But they've also fooled everybody else -- Dems, Obama, and (most) progressives -- into playing along in their game by believing the government can't do for the people what the government did for the banks.

      Here's how Glenn put it over at NEP:

      The government issued a 16 trillion dollar credit as an electronic ledger entry to bail out the banks. There was no corresponding debt issued at that time, as this would have been apparent by inspection of the national debt at the time this credit was added to the ledger.

      There is no question that this is what happened. The question is whether the government thinks we, the people, are as important to it as the banks are.

      Money is a concept that is valid as long as we believe in it. Its physical instantiations are merely symbols representative of the concept, whether the symbols be paper, electronic ledgers, coins, or any other symbol the people of a society are mutually willing to suspend their disbelief about.

      So, the Gov't comes up with $16T for Banksters -- but for "We, the People", the Gov't is broke ??

      We need to start by correcting our own assumptions regarding the relation between government, "We, the people", "We, the corporations" -- in particular, "We, the banks".

      Correct those assumptions and we will have more wisdom and power to correct the Dems, Obama, and -their- Wall St. advisors.

      Repeat to ourselves -- then to each of the above:

      Whose side are you on?

      ambiguity is okay ... if you know what I mean

      by dorkenergy on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 11:54:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You need to understand the difference between (8+ / 0-)

    good Republican debt and bad Democratic debt.

    Republican debt is like the debt that you ran up buying a vacation home in the Hamptons, a top of thei line Mercedes, and a trophy wife. Those are investments to help you be more productive. You work hard and deserve some small pleasures.

    Democratic debt is like the debt your former brother-in-law ran up after you out-sourced his job to India. If he wasn't so lazy he would have no problems meeting his obligations. Co-signing a loan with him would just be enabling his irresponsible behavior. Besides, your ex-wife could support him using all that alimony you are paying her.

  •  and the contradictions pile up (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    La Gitane, Jeff Y, Matt Z, llywrch
    Which is what makes the GOP's hostage-taking so unique. Never before has the threat to block a debt limit increase been coupled with one party's intent and ability to actually do it. (As Reid described his own grandstanding, "The Republicans were in power—there were more of them.") After all, while Republican Speaker John Boehner has the numbers to deny a debt ceiling increase in the House, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell can prevent it from even coming to a vote. Of course, when George W. Bush sat in the Oval Office, GOP leaders including Boehner, McConnell, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and John Cornyn didn't just vote for seven increases in the debt ceiling. In November 2004, they all voted for the very kind of "clean" debt ceiling bill they refuse to offer President Obama now.

    “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” - Dalai Lama XIV (-9.50; -7.03)‽ Warning - some snark above‽

    by annieli on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 08:02:09 PM PST

  •  The Republicans Are So Cute And Cuddly (0+ / 0-)

     When in the minority. Suddenly they become anti-spending.

    •  They're in the minority? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RenMin

      Why, it appears they are all powerful.

      I mean, based on results.

      Patriot Act Renewal?  Check.

      Free Trade Job Off-shoring that Bush Jr. couldn't pass?  Check.

      Free Trade Job Off-shoring via Trans Pacific Partnership?  On the way.

      Linking Social Security to the General Fund (Deficit)?  Check.

      Keeping Glass Steagal dead?  Check. Well, in the GOP's defense, Obama's White House did say they were opposed to bringing back Glass-Steagal because it wouldn't help.

      NDAA?  Check.  Though in the GOPs defense, Obama didn't oppose it and reassured everyone he wouldn't abuse its powers.

      Bush Tax Cuts?  Check.  Of course Obama had no choice.

      Bernanke, Summers, Geithner?  Check, Check, and Check.  But Obama had no choice.

      Three Chiefs of Staff from Wall Street Banks?  Check, Check and Check.  Of course, Obama had no choice.

      Damn that obstructionist GOP.

      Hell, they even made Obama publicly state during the debates that Corporate Taxes are Too High.

      Clearly the GOP has total control and cannot be resisted.  

      It's the only logical conclusion.

      The excuses for Obama's behavior have long since passed the point of predictability neccessary to qualify as an absurd production of Kabuki Theater.

      by Johnathan Ivan on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 09:20:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Strike the platinum coin, President Obama! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RenMin, Matt Z
  •  The reason they did so... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sarenth, RenMin

    is because they knew that the GOP couldn't attack Social Security and other social programs.  The Dems would have filibustered.

    But with a Dem administration in town, the game is changed and the Dems can do what the GOP coudln't.

    It took Nixon to go to China.

    It takes the GOP to cut benefits for military families (as was done under Bush).

    It takes Democrats to cut social programs (Clinton and "welfare reform") and advance Free Trade (NAFTA, Obama's Free Trade Job Off-shoring deal with Columbia, S. Korea, Panama and the TPP).

    The parties compete for control over certain issues - and the issues that belong to a party will be guarded from the "other side".  Only the party which owns the issue can change it.

    Hence, we get Free Trade Job Off-shoring and Social Program cuts under Democrats.

    The Democrats would never allow the GOP to claim such a victory, lest the GOP gain more favor with the 1%.

    So when Social Security gets cut, when Medicare and other programs are made "more efficient".. it will be a Democrat that does it.  

    And the GOP will be blamed, despite their historic failures (Bush & Social Security "reform", Bush & Free Trade).

    The excuses for Obama's behavior have long since passed the point of predictability neccessary to qualify as an absurd production of Kabuki Theater.

    by Johnathan Ivan on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 09:06:45 PM PST

  •  No Longer Conservatives (0+ / 0-)

    The honorable title "conservatives" should be retired. From now on, it should be "Republican regressives."

  •  Jon Perr covers important points here (0+ / 0-)

    This should be part of the national conversation. The contradictions discussed here should be central to every Sunday morning talk show where Republican politicians are the main guests. The nation is tired of softball questions to these folks and it is way past time to pitch difficult questions such as what Jon Perr raises here.

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