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Unless Congress raises the debt ceiling by Oct. 17, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned this week, the federal government will be unable to pay its bills. But while some Republicans like Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) responded, "I don't think we should run government based on economists' predictions," House Speaker John Boehner knows all too well what would ensue if Uncle Sam's borrowing authority is not increased:

"That would be a financial disaster, not only for our country but for the worldwide economy."
Which is why John Boehner should push his Republican colleagues to pass a "clean" debt ceiling bill right now. After all, Boehner, along with his lieutenant Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, didn't just vote for all seven debt limit hikes while President George W. Bush was nearly doubling the national debt. In November 2004, Boehner, Cantor and McConnell sent the White House an $800 billion debt ceiling increase with no strings attached to help pay for Bush's new—and unfunded—Medicare Part D prescription drug program.

In the spring of 2011, the newly minted Speaker Boehner told a GOP fundraising event, "There will not be an increase in the debt limit without something really, really big attached to it." He warned President Obama:

"The president says I want you to send me a clean bill. Well guess what, Mr. President, not a chance you're going to get a clean bill."
Of course, a clean bill is exactly what John Boehner and his colleagues gave Republican President George W. Bush in November 2004. That October, Bush 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 Nov. 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.
The ironies, as we'll see below, in that 2004 debt limit boost didn't end there.

As it turned out, John Boehner, along with leaders McConnell and Cantor, needed to enable President Bush to borrow more money to pay for a massive new health care program.

In December 2003, they added another budget-buster to Bush's ledger, the Medicare prescription drug benefit. And, as I noted previously, it was a doozy:

Within two months of signing the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) into law, President Bush quietly informed Congress that the true cost of the program would be $550 billion, not $395 billion, over the next decade. When Medicare actuary Richard Foster sought to present the true price tag to Congress in late 2003, then agency chief Thomas Scully threatened to fire him. By the time the program was launched in 2006, the estimated 10 year price tag for the Medicare prescription plan had increased to $720 billion.
Ultimately, the costs of the initially unpopular Part D program came in closer to the original forecast. But as Ezra Klein detailed, that was primarily due to the greater use of generic drugs and the lower rate (77 percent versus 93 percent) of enrollment by America's 43 million Medicare recipients. Regardless, Bush, Boehner and company never raised a single penny of new revenue to fund a program that needlessly enriched private insurers and pharmaceutical firms at Uncle Sam's expense. Unlike the fully funded Affordable Care Act now, it all went on America's credit card. As Sen. Orrin Hatch acknowledged in 2009:
"It was standard practice not to pay for things."
It has also been standard practice to raise the debt ceiling, something both parties have routinely done a combined 42 times since 1980. With the dramatic improvement in the near-and-mid-term debt forecast and the federal government's annual deficits plummeting to half the level Barack Obama inherited when he first took the oath of office in January 2009, there is no reason to attach any conditions a debt ceiling hike. Speaker Boehner had it exactly right in March when he acknowledged:
"We have no immediate debt crisis."
And as Boehner's budget man Paul Ryan admitted two years ago, "You can't not raise the debt ceiling."

Unless, Republicans now insist, a Democrat is in the White House.

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 10:26 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  2004 is too long ago for Agent Orange Boehner (5+ / 0-)

    memory loss is symptomatic of too much Merlot

    In November 2004, Boehner, Cantor and McConnell sent the White House an $800 billion debt ceiling increase with no strings attached to help pay for Bush's new--and unfunded--Medicare Part D prescription drug program.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 10:31:47 AM PDT

  •  Even better (7+ / 0-)

    Repeal the debt ceiling law.  It serves no legitimate purpose.  It is not required by the Constitution.  The debt ceiling law is a law passed by Congress in 1917.  Repeal it.

  •  I'm starting to think (7+ / 0-)

    that this sort of tactic is the only thing Republicans have in their repertoire.

    I mean, they know the only way they're keeping control of the House is to gerrymander as much of rural America and the southeast as they can.

    But that's it.

    They can't convince anyone that their ideas have merit.

    So all that's left is ultimatums.

    Intellectual honesty? They left that behind soon after Nixon left office.

    Women do 2/3 of the world's work, receive 10% of the world's income and own 1% of the means of production.

    by LibrErica on Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 10:45:42 AM PDT

    •  What ideas does the GOP have other than (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      tax cuts and government mandated ultrasounds?  The Democrats gave us Social Security and the Democrats gave us Medicare.  Other than tax cuts and budget cuts, what does the GOP have?

      The Democrats care about you after you're born. --Ed Schultz

      by micsimov on Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 11:36:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  in a word "bupkis" (0+ / 0-)

        nada, zilch - NOTHING except disrespect and  "government by crisis"

        America's LAST HOPE: vote the GOP OUT in 2014 elections. MAKE them LOSE the House Majority and reduce their numbers in the Senate. Democrats move America forward - Republicans take us backward and are KILLING OUR NATION!

        by dagnome on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 11:52:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I heard boehner described as a weeping cheeto! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    daeros, Jeff Y, micsimov


  •  President Obama said it best... (6+ / 0-)
    Voting for the Treasury to pay America’s bills is not a concession to me. That -- that -- that -- that’s not doing me a favor. That’s simply carrying out the solemn responsibilities that come with holding office up there.

    I don’t know how I can be more clear about this: Nobody gets to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States just to extract political concessions. No one gets to hurt our economy and millions of innocent people just because there are a couple of laws that you do not like.


    it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses

    by Addison on Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 06:50:34 PM PDT

    •  they need to make an ad with that part of his (0+ / 0-)

      speech and run it over and over again in carefully targeted republican districts, especially in those districts of "moderate" republicans.

      The Democrats care about you after you're born. --Ed Schultz

      by micsimov on Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 11:40:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What's all the Fuss? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Remember "signing statements"?

    Time to use the tools BushCo® left lying around.

    I would tell you the only word in the English language that has all the vowels in order but, that would be facetious.

    by roninkai on Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 06:50:39 PM PDT

  •  And why isn't the press pressing this in (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TXdem, daeros, micsimov



    Wonders are many, but none so wonderful as man.

    by Morgan Sandlin on Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 07:00:59 PM PDT

  •  not because "...a Democrat is in the White House" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    daeros, TXdem, dagnome

    but rather because a Black Democrat was elected to the Oval Office. Not once...but twice.

    It's been kinda pricey on the one hand, but on the other hand, I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. Most especially today...

    "Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. And don't be attached to the results." -- Angeles Arrien

    by Sybil Liberty on Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 07:02:39 PM PDT

  •  So Boehner is not going to give the President (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bud Fields, annominous, micsimov

    a clean bill.

    Now, I know Republicans don't do logic, but, logically, if Boehner is not sending a clean bill, he is promissing to send a dirty one.

    "The president says I want you to send me a clean bill. Well guess what, Mr. President, not a chance you're going to get a clean bill. You are going to get a dirty bill, Mr. President. A filthy bill. The dirtiest, filthiest, slime choked putrid stinking mess of a bill we are capable of coming up with, and, believe me, we have had lots of practice.

    We will send you a bill so vile and disgusting that, if the American public paid attention to what we proposed, we would be run out of Washington dipped in tar and rolled in feathers. A bill that, if implemented, would destroy what is left of the American middle class and force the paupers among us to beg in the streets, and die there.

    An odious, exceptionally crapulent bill.

    A clean bill? I laugh, Ha! Ha! at your want of a clean bill, Mr. President."

    "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

    by Orinoco on Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 07:36:27 PM PDT

  •  Fleming is R-LA, not R-FL (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jon Perr

    Media Matters has it wrong.

    "Speaking for myself only" - Armando

    by JR on Fri Sep 27, 2013 at 08:45:57 PM PDT

  •  Economic Suicide Attack in the US (0+ / 0-)

    Suicide attacks in the modern form started in 1983 in Lebanon. They spread to Sri Lanka and Hamas and later to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 30 years. In all cases they need an infrastructure providing logistics and they need indoctrination centers to provide the human fodder. We now have several economic suicide attackers within our elected Congress. And this indoctrination has captured a meaningful piece of internet news commenters who posts are mostly 1) It's a good idea; blow it up, or 2) the Democrats are so much worse.

    Ted Cruz is not committing personal economic suicide, merely national suicide. The infrastructure has him set up for life whether or not he remains in the Senate. A government shutdown will dampen our tax receipts, economy, plunge us further into debt while sticking it to government workers. A government default may raise interest on our $16.9T debt by 1% per year for a long time. That's $3.7T in increased interest payments over 20 years.

    The really scary part is... this is a feature not a bug of crashing the US economy. Everybody else will suffer, the US will be diminished. Meanwhile the top 0.000001 percent, our richest 400 citizens, can overwhelm campaign spending on a revolving roster of chosen candidates. The same 400 citizens and their friends will end up with much of the extra 3.7T in interest payments from ordinary taxpayers over the next 20 years, because the top 1% have been buying Treasuries instead of paying taxes for the past 30 years.

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