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ICYMI: Washington Post Editorial Board: This shouldn't be hard: Republicans must help the U.S. avoid default

September 21, 2021

Today, the Washington Post editorial board published an editorial arguing that Congressional Republicans have a responsibility to work with Democrats to address the debt limit and prevent an economic calamity that would be devastating for working families.

The board writes:

"Republicans have been enthusiastic participants in running up the debt, with both tax cuts and covid-19 relief, receiving Democratic support to suspend the debt limit during the Trump years. Yet Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) insists that Republicans will not help Democrats raise or suspend the debt limit."

They conclude: "Lawmakers can horse-trade, argue and obstruct on other issues, but on the fundamental question of whether the federal government will make good on its obligations, there should be no questions, objections or conditions: It should pass 100 to zero in the Senate. Stewing in the minority, Republicans may feel as though the Democrats must offer them something. No; the good of the nation should be enough motivation for them to act. The full faith and credit of the United States is not a political plaything."

Washington Post editorial board: This shouldn't be hard: Republicans must help the U.S. avoid default

Congressional Democrats released a stopgap funding bill Monday that would keep the United States from defaulting on its debts. A vote in favor, in other words, is a vote for sanity. Unfortunately, there may not be 10 Senate Republicans on the sane side of the issue.

The measure would fund the federal government until December. Failing to approve it would shut the government in the middle of a resurgent pandemic. But that would be nothing compared with the calamity that would occur if another key element failed to pass Congress: suspending the federal debt limit until December of next year.

A cap on the amount of debt the United States can incur, the debt limit does not authorize any new spending; it just allows the government to finance spending Congress already has approved. Because federal revenue comes in waves, and because the United States runs a deficit, the government can rely for only so long on its monthly income. The treasury must issue bonds to cover the gap between what Congress has promised to pay and the government's means to pay it. Dealing with the debt limit is typically a bipartisan exercise, in part because failing to do so would be catastrophic.

Pointing out that Congress has raised or suspended the debt limit 80 times since 1960, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Sunday that, absent immediate congressional action to lift the limit, the United States would default on its obligations sometime in October. "The U.S. has never defaulted. Not once. Doing so would likely precipitate a historic financial crisis that would compound the damage of the continuing public health emergency," Ms. Yellen wrote in the Wall Street Journal. "Default could trigger a spike in interest rates, a steep drop in stock prices and other financial turmoil. Our current economic recovery would reverse into recession, with billions of dollars of growth and millions of jobs lost."

Republicans have been enthusiastic participants in running up the debt, with both tax cuts and covid-19 relief, receiving Democratic support to suspend the debt limit during the Trump years. Yet Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) insists that Republicans will not help Democrats raise or suspend the debt limit, arguing that the majority could do so in a "reconciliation" bill that could pass the Senate with only Democratic votes. This is impractical as well as irresponsible: The Democrats' reconciliation bill, which they intend to use to beef up the social safety net, is nowhere near ready for a vote.

For their part, the Democrats have refused to negotiate with Republicans to attract their support to deal with the debt limit outside the reconciliation process. And why should they? Lawmakers can horse-trade, argue and obstruct on other issues, but on the fundamental question of whether the federal government will make good on its obligations, there should be no questions, objections or conditions: It should pass 100 to zero in the Senate. Stewing in the minority, Republicans may feel as though the Democrats must offer them something. No; the good of the nation should be enough motivation for them to act. The full faith and credit of the United States is not a political plaything.

Joseph R. Biden, ICYMI: Washington Post Editorial Board: This shouldn't be hard: Republicans must help the U.S. avoid default Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/352674

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