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This week, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned congressional leaders that the federal government will hit its debt ceiling in late February. But just days after House Speaker John Boehner declared Uncle Sam "shouldn't even get close" to the edge of its borrowing limit, his spokesman Michael Steel warned a "'clean' debt-limit increase simply won't pass in the House." After a year in which Republicans' ever-changing blackmail for not triggering what they deemed "financial collapse and calamity throughout the world" included repealing Obamacare, adopting the House GOP budget, implementing tax reform, green-lighting the Keystone XL pipeline, curbing new federal regulations and even enacting draconian new abortion restrictions, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan on Thursday issued a new ransom note.

The extortion this time, Ryan suggested, would be the repeal of "risk corridors" in the Affordable Care Act, provisions designed to help keep premiums down while protecting health insurers if their newly covered customers generate higher-than-expected costs, would be the GOP's price for lifting the nation's borrowing cap. As Politico reported:

"There are issues with Obamacare," Ryan said. "A lot of folks don't realize there could be some massive insurance company bailouts in the near future with Obamacare that a lot of taxpayers probably didn't know about that we don't want to see happen. That's one of the issues that's in the realm of possibility. There are a lot of things...that are being discussed but it's just not in our interest to negotiate in the media."
Ryan's position on these mythical "bailouts," echoed by Republican Study Committee chairman Steve Scalise (R-LA), is more than a little ironic. After all, President Bush's Medicare Part D prescription drug plan overwhelmingly supported by Congressional Republicans in 2003 contains virtually the same risk corridors as the Affordable Care Act. As it turns out, 10 years ago House and Senate Republicans gave President Bush a "clean" no-strings-attached $800 billion debt ceiling increase, one of seven they granted as he almost the doubled the national debt during his tenure. And the current GOP leadership team of John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn voted for all of it.

If the current Republican storyline sounds familiar, it should. As House Republicans shut down the government last fall and once again brought the U.S. to the brink of default, Speaker Boehner warned Obama in October:

"We're not going to pass a clean debt-limit increase."

"I told the president, 'There's no way we're going to pass one.' The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us."

Unless, as you can read below the fold, the president involved is a Republican.

As it turns out, a clean debt ceiling bill exactly what then House Speaker Dennis Hastert and future Speaker John Boehner 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."

Boehner's predecessor made it clear that President Bush had nothing to worry about. As the Washington Post recounted that October:

"Typically with Congress, they do it when they need to do it," said John Feehery, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). "And we'll do it when we need to do it."
And do it they did. 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:
Faced with the prospect of a government unable to pay its bills, the Senate voted on Wednesday to raise the federal debt limit by $800 billion.

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 in that 2004 debt limit expansion didn't end there. Democrats rightly "noted that Bush's 2001 budget anticipated the debt ceiling would not have to be raised until 2008." By the time Bush left office in January 2009, the U.S. national debt had nearly doubled. And as it turned out, As it turned out, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor along with Speaker Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist needed to enable President Bush to borrow more money to pay for a massive new health care program.

That's because on top of two wars, two rounds of tax cuts and the TARP program to come, they added another budget-buster to Bush's ledger in December 2003, 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 to a debt ceiling hike.

Especially when those conditions are the ones described by Rep. Scalise:

"When the debt ceiling is hit, I think that's an opportune time to also talk about making the reforms to control spending. What we've been looking at this high risk corridor."
As Jonathan Cohn explained, Scalise and his fellow Republicans might want to think twice about that:
The reinsurance and risk corridors in Obamacare and Medicare Part D are remarkably similar, except that Obamacare's are temporary and Medicare Part D's are permanent--which is to say, they are still part of the program.
(For details on just how similar, see "Republicans Support 'Bailout' for Private Medicare Insurers.")

And so it goes. Ten years ago, Republican majorities in the House and Senate gave President Bush a clean debt ceiling increase to help pay for his new health care program, risk corridors and all. But that was then and this is now.

And now, a Democrat is in the Oval Office.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Boehner might be lying about the votes (5+ / 0-)

      There is no way to get all the R's to vote for a clean debt-limit bill, but what he said elides the possibility of getting a clean bill with all D's and a few R's.

      It was really clear last fall that Boehner would not let the House vote on the budget bill because it would have passed with mostly D's and he would have (probably) lost the Speakership in January. If he can get over himself and let this bill come to a vote, it might pass.

      Have to watch those weasels; they say a clean bill couldn't pass, but they mean "pass with the Republicans being happy."

      "Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everybody gets busy on the proof.” ― John Kenneth Galbraith

      by Urban Owl on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 02:56:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Of course he's lying about the votes (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Urban Owl, sajiocity, Australian2

        A clean debt ceiling hike would breeze through the House like the previous times. He knows it and he knows he'll have to bring it to the floor eventually, but being the gutless drunk he is, he won't do it until the political damage outweighs the shriekings of the teabaggers.

        Again, weakest, most pathetic Speaker ever.

      •  Don't you remember (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Urban Owl, Australian2

        when Medicare Part D passed? I went to bed some ten or fifteen minutes after the voting time limit had passed; the leadership was literally ambushing women on the floor, but there was still a majority no vote, and I was sure the vote would end soon. Silly me; the vote stayed open until after some three or four hours they briefly got a majority of one.

        Republicans did not overwhelmingly support that bill.

        John Boehner never counts D votes; he thinks he is Speaker of the Rs in the house.

        Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

        by ramara on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 04:36:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  the love of money (0+ / 0-)

      Americans love money others money.

      Neither party has an answer to the decline of the American empire yet both think that they do. paradigm paralysis at its best.

      No empire has self destructed as fast as the American empire is doing. some were defeated in wars but none so fast all on their own.

      The terrorist attack on 9/11 helped to put that  self destruction  on steroids, actually what they wanted to do. 19 terrorists forever changed America's level of fear.

      Revenge has many faces this was one of them.

      While the empire self destructs Americans build expensive sports stadiums to entertain the masses and give out movie awards.  the roman empire has nothing on the American empire.

  •  Come back, President Clinton (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    A surplus and a balanced budget.  

    No borrowed money to fund our nation's insanity.

    It would be so nice for someone to actually come up with a time machine !!!

  •  Sort of Sad (4+ / 0-)

    That one chart that shows that as much as the gop crows about the debt they have never even slowed it's growth when they were in power.  

  •  Never realized Reagan never had a Rethug House! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I cringe at the thought of what that senile asshat's keepers could have done with one...

    Conservatism is a function of age - Rousseau
    I've been 19 longer'n you've been alive - me

    by watercarrier4diogenes on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 02:58:34 PM PST

  •  No submission to right-wing blackmail! (6+ / 0-)

    Mr. President, hold firm!

    Read a preview of Volume One of my book here.

    by Yosef 52 on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:06:49 PM PST

  •  Debt ceiling? (0+ / 0-)

    That is an oxymoron if it is used to depict the U.S. government.  There is HUGE debt and there is no ceiling.

    It does not matter if republicans gave Bush a clean path to raise the "debt ceiling".  That means squat, really.  What really matters is that we actually do continue to raise our debt limit in America.  Don't most people in the world think that America is the richest nation on Earth?  Why oh why would the richest nation on Earth ever need to borrow money just to exist?  What is wrong with that picture?  

    When will we Americans realize we can not just continue to borrow money to fund our unrealistic wishes for our citizens?  When will we see just how devastating excessive debt is to any city or state government and especially any country especially seeing what is happening to so many countries all around the world?

    I just have to shake my head.  

    •  Yep. Time to increase revenue. Right? (nt) (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass, untorqued, Australian2

      “One life. A little gleam of Time between two Eternities.” -- Thomas Carlyle

      by Rikon Snow on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:18:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Start with (5+ / 0-)

        making the rich pay their fair share and eliminating corporate welfare, then see where we stand. After that, if anybody thinks we will be able to do the things we want, and deal with the debt, without some kind of tax increase is fooling themselves.

        If you are not the lead dog, the view never changes.

        by RepresentUsPlease on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:21:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I hear you (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RepresentUsPlease, MBramble

          There should be NO corporate welfare that doesn't create jobs.  Today, that isn't the case.  But, we can take all of the money from all of the rich people in America and within a very short period, it would be spent and gone by government.  

          We need a culture change in our federal government.  Until that happens, no amount of money from any source will satisfy their lust for spending.

          •  No argument from me (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rikon Snow, Calamity Jean

            on that, but I pay 24% income tax and I challenge anybody here to find a millionaire in this country that pays that. This also must be changed, and soon.

            If you are not the lead dog, the view never changes.

            by RepresentUsPlease on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:41:31 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Me too (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I pay far more than most hugely rich people in income tax because I am "on the line" from not having any deductions and having all kinds of "write offs" that the rich people have.  

              I know this.  I think that needs to be fixed.  THAT is where we should have government putting effort.  "Screw the rich people" rhetoric is just that.  It is rhetoric.  Good IRS law getting the rich to pay their fair share is right up my alley.

              •  I am a firm believer (0+ / 0-)

                in the flat tax concept, one percentage for all of us, repubs will never go along with it, but something must be done. I'm tired of picking up the tab for those rich bastards. What really screwed me was when I paid off my house, supposed to be the American dream, not so much, I was much better off when I was up to my eyeballs in debt.

                If you are not the lead dog, the view never changes.

                by RepresentUsPlease on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 04:09:19 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Flat tax? (0+ / 0-)

                  Almost every single progressive or liberal belief stated about the "flat tax" is horribly against that.  I am not sure that would ever pass muster in the democratic mindset in our country because of it is inherently more devastating to the lower income people than the rich people.  It is and because of that, I truly believe it would never become reality just like that "fair tax" melarchy the rabid right puts out.

                  From my own personal point of view, I would like to see it because it would mean a lesser tax for me overall.  But, I am not your average taxpayer.  So, I am not the right person to speak to it.

      •  Not time to increase revenue (0+ / 0-)

        Time to control spending.  It is not rocket science.

        •  OK. 75% cut to defense. That's my bottom line. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          et vous?  

          “One life. A little gleam of Time between two Eternities.” -- Thomas Carlyle

          by Rikon Snow on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:27:38 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Spending's been controlled (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          This POTUS and Clinton had "pay fors" for every major spending initiative they've had to administer.

          The problem is for these past 5 years we've squandered historically borrowing rates not engaging in long overdue Public Works spending.

          Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

          by Egalitare on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:42:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I have a huge debt, a 30-year mortgage on the (7+ / 0-)

      house, but I don't stop buying the things my family and I need for daily life because I owe thousands of dollars already.
      Other countries have the same issue we do in that, particularly in the case of Greece, the wealthy do not pay their fair share.  Loop holes, offshoring wealth, and outright scofflawing keep us in debt.  And once we disentangle ourselves from our seemingly endless wars we can apply savings to the debt.  Pushing for growth is key.

      Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

      by judyms9 on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:20:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not saying (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        we need to pay the debt off, we don't, but we do need to pay it down. It's not the debt itself that's killing us, it's the interest we pay on it. That is what drives the constant limit increases. We do need to quit spending more than we take in, that is not rocket science.

        If you are not the lead dog, the view never changes.

        by RepresentUsPlease on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:26:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  So (0+ / 0-)

        You have debt for your house and then you go beyond what you can afford to accumulate more debt then?  

        That is what the U.S. government is doing.  If you want to compare you to the government, then you must be doing this.  

        You will eventually go bankrupt, my friend.  I hope you change your spending habits.  Thanks.

        •  No. The government has been in the position of a (5+ / 0-)

          householder who decides to work part time instead of full time (e.g. bush tax cuts) and buy a couple new cars (Iraq, Afghanistan) on his credit card.  GOP thinks he'll solve the problem by working even less (reducing taxes even more) and just not buying food . . . .

          “One life. A little gleam of Time between two Eternities.” -- Thomas Carlyle

          by Rikon Snow on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:31:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sigh (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I am as much a democrat as anyone here on this blog site.  But, Rikon Snow, you are just posting the tired old "it is Bush's fault".  

            It is not Bush's fault.  It is not.  I am sorry that is the only excuse you have for the problems we have in our country today.  I know Obama is my party's leader but I do not see him as you do.  

            •  I'm no fan of Obama. Much to conservative for me. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              olegar, Calamity Jean, Duncan Idaho

              Decreasing revenue makes no sense if it does not bring an increase in general prosperity.  Trickle down is a lie.  The financier economy is inherently destructive.  

              “One life. A little gleam of Time between two Eternities.” -- Thomas Carlyle

              by Rikon Snow on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:48:28 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Agreed (0+ / 0-)

              It started with 8 years of Bush, but the president has been in office for 6 years and had democratic control of both houses the first two years, a golden opportunity was lost before the crazies got the house back. I see somebody with a note in their signature that says "We need a democrat for president" I agree with that statement.

              If you are not the lead dog, the view never changes.

              by RepresentUsPlease on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 04:17:56 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  There would be little anger or debate if.... (0+ / 0-)

              Congress would address the job situation in this country.  I am not inferring that the debt problem would be solved, but it would not have the impact it has if people were working and bringing in revenue for the nation's coffers.

              Congress is the legislative branch of our government.  The proposed outlay of funds to put this nation to work falls on deaf ears.

              What is Bush's fault is the debt and unpaid bills he left behind, along with the two tax cuts.  Never before in our history has a government cut taxes while engaging in war, let along two wars at the same time.

              Along with the financial collapse of 2007/2008, it very much set the stage for the struggles we have now.

  •  Assholes, Idiots & Thieves (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, MBramble, a2nite, Eric Nelson

    at best.
    And I'm being generous.

    “One life. A little gleam of Time between two Eternities.” -- Thomas Carlyle

    by Rikon Snow on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:16:47 PM PST

  •  These GOP guys are getting very good (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rikon Snow, a2nite, Matt Z, Calamity Jean

    at extortion and blackmail, I'll tell you that.

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 03:18:38 PM PST

  •  unlike a person or business, the government can (4+ / 0-)

    never run out of money. still a good way to increase revenue is one raise taxes, or two increase the number of people working, which also increases revenue. we have cut taxes to the point where there is not enough revenue coming in. taxes need to go up
     and the very rich need to pay more. where else are they going to go, China?this is the wealthiest country in the world, but we alsio have some of the worst inequality amiong the mahor countries in the world. that needs to shrink.

  •  Why do they stick to this BS? (0+ / 0-)

    They know that Obama won't accept any of their ransom notes. They know that nothing but a clean debt ceiling hike will get accepted. They know they don't have any leverage. They know that the habit of budget crises seems to be fortunately over.

    Why are they pretending they will start a fight over it again?

  •  Yawn. I've seen this show before (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rikon Snow

    We all know this'll end with the GOP caving after a lot of shrieking and ranting and crying like little babies. This is an empty bluff and they know it, especially after the shutdown disaster.

    The GOP in this situation always reminds me of Monty Python's "Scottish Highjacker" sketch.

  •  I got my first job on the Hill in 1987... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rikon Snow, Calamity Jean

    had a pretty good knowledge of issues in broad strokes, but knew nothing about the nuts and bolts.

    Shortly thereafter, I saw a debt ceiling increase on the floor schedule for the day. If memory serves, it was on the suspension calendar, a device used to expedite non-controversial matters.

    I asked our legislative director why Republicans weren't going bug-eyed crazy over this. Seemed like a pretty big deal to me.

    It was explained to me that this was a fairly routine deal and the consequences of just making symbolic waves over it would roil the markets and royally piss off Republican constituencies in business, finance, banking, etc.

    What a difference a quarter century makes, eh?

  •  Can The Executive Branch Put A Hold On Contracts? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rikon Snow, RepresentUsPlease

    Pentagon. CIA. NSA. Oil Industry.

    Anything that the Republicans hold near and dear. Can the President of the United States put a hold on the sub-contracts for a reason to be named later?

    Remember, the road to victory is paved with big words and professorial arrogance. Passion need not apply.

    by The Lone Apple on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 04:05:03 PM PST

  •  The Gop Extortion Tango (0+ / 0-)

    Because shutting down the Government worked Soooo
    Well the Last time.

    How many times does the Gop get to attempt this
    Criminal Extortion before the RICO charges are filed ?

    Just Asking.

    On Giving Advice: Smart People Don't Need It and Stupid People Don't Listen

    by Brian76239 on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 07:03:12 PM PST

  •  The facts sometimes the way.... (0+ / 0-)

    Because of  George W Bushes two wars, not put on the books, Medicare Prescription Drug D, not put on the books, and the Bush-era tax cuts that were not matched by cuts in spending----there was a financial mess left behind for President Obama to clean up.

    When President Bush left office this country was 1.3 trillion dollars in debt. mentioned above, add to that the financial debacle that followed.  

    If Congress had addressed the (Boehner) jobs, jobs, jobs, the financial picture of this nation would be very different.  The unnecessary suffering the people of this country went through and still are makes their actions unconscionable.

    The two tax cuts Bush made, increased the debt as each year went by; the revenue from a working population was not there.  Of course, in the last five years with the first stimulus, and some reforms, we are recovering, but it is still fragile.  Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, could have made the transition less toxic and put us on a healthier footing.

    Homes lost to foreclosure and jobs lost is a terrible duo and much of that misery was going to occur.  However, if one had a job, it could have made it better to cope.

    These Repugs are still making unnecessary hardships on families; not extending unemployment, and cutting the SNAP program nationally, with the total cut  estimated to be $5 billion in fiscal year 2014.  

    What that means that this Congress with their full bellies has decided again the vulnerable is easier to cut from then, say, the Pentagon, or Corporate welfare, or oil subsidies.  Now, the SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014.  These are our elderly, disabled, children, military families, and includes many working families (walmart, anyone?)

  •  Dems = Gephardt rule (0+ / 0-)

    GOPs = Hostages rule!

  •  Just let them default (0+ / 0-)

    This extortion has to stop.  Let them default and the crash of the country can be on their heads.

    If Obama gives them something every time they scream, they will just scream louder and more often.  They know the dangers of default, so let them pull the trigger.

    The 2011 Debt Ceiling Debacle was a low point in the Obama Administration.  He harmed the economy by acceding to their demands and gave us the sequester.

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